Facts about whale sharks

Fact: Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world. The largest whale shark ever measured was 12.65 meters in length and weighed 21.5 tons
  1. Name: The whale shark’s name comes from its enormous size (a shark the size of a whale = whale shark). Its Latin name is Rhincodon typus
  2. The world’s largest fish: The whale shark is the largest fish in the world. The largest recorded whale shark was 12.65 meters long and weighed 21.5 tons (Karachi, Pakistan in 1947). There are stories of whale sharks over 18 meters with a minimum weight of 45 tons. The average whale shark is 9.7 meters long and weighs about 9 tons
  3. Food: Whale sharks are so-called ‘filter feeders’ that filter their food from the water. The process takes place by allowing huge amounts of water to enter their mouths and flow out through their gills. Along the way, plankton, crustaceans and small fish are filtered out and then digested by the whale shark. A whale shark can filter over 600,000 liters of water per hour! This is basically the same technique as baleen whales (such as blue whales) use
  4. Mouth: The adult whale shark’s mouth is about 1.5 meters wide and contains 300 – 350 rows of teeth. In total, it has around 3,000 teeth, but they’re not as fearsome as on many other sharks; they look more like small spikes. It also has 10 filter plates in its mouth, which are used to filter food from the water
  5. Skin: Whale shark skin can grow up to 10 cm thick, protecting it from bites from other animals
  6. Lifespan: A whale shark typically lives up to around 70 years old, but it is believed that they can live up to 150 years
  7. Reproduction: Whale sharks don’t start mating until they are over 30 years old (they are not sexually mature until then). Females give birth to live young and typically have hundreds of whale shark embryos inside them. However, they don’t give birth all at once, but over time. The smallest whale shark ever found was only 38 cm long (March 7, 2009 in the Philippines)
  8. Cartilaginous fish: Like other sharks, whale sharks are cartilaginous fish, meaning their skeletons are made of cartilage instead of bone
  9. Colors: Whale sharks’ backs are blue-grey to brown in color with white or cream spots. On their bellies, they are white. Their colors are used as camouflage. Their spot patterns are unique to each individual – just like human fingerprints
  10. Habitat: The whale shark lives in the open ocean as well as coastal waters and is found in tropical and warm temperate oceans. Whale sharks are found in the waters of more than 100 countries


More facts about sharks

Hvalhajer lever i de tropiske og varme verdenshave

Fact: Whale sharks live in the world’s tropical and warm oceans. In the image, the blue areas mark the distribution of whale sharks

  • Preservation: Whale sharks are protected in many countries because their population is constantly decreasing. Whale sharks are characterized as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ by IUCN
  • Friendly sharks: Whale sharks are known to be friendly and peaceful, not harming or disturbing other animals around them
  • Threats: The only threats to whale sharks are killer whales, great white sharks and humans. In many places, humans prey on whale sharks, mainly due to the use of whale shark fins in traditional Chinese medicine, but also other uses in Southeast Asian countries. Whale sharks are easy to catch due to their size, but also because they swim slowly and close to the water’s surface. In India, over 1,000 sharks were killed from 1999 – 2000
  • Whale shark tourismIn recent years, diving with whale sharks has become popular, giving rise to a small travel industry called ‘whale shark tourism’. Australia, Mexico, Honduras or the Philippines are some of the countries where you can dive with whale sharks
  • Migration: Whale sharks migrate and make several long journeys annually. Scientists still have a poor understanding of whale shark migration patterns, but a whale shark was once tracked swimming 13,000 km from California, USA to Tonga (east of Australia) – so it is known for certain that they travel great distances. In 2009, a pod of 400 whale sharks was observed off the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, indicating that whale sharks also migrate in pods


Video about whale sharks

Below you can watch a video about whale sharks.