World’s Largest Fish – Whale Shark
Lurking below the surface of the water is an oceanic creature like no other. On this episode, we’ll take a look at the world’s largest fish. Being the largest known extant jawless fish species the whale shark is also the largest living non mammalian vertebrate.
On Average weighing around 20,000 lbs or 10 tons and measuring up to 32 feet or 10 meters long the whale shark is unmatched in its size. These giant fish of the sea inhabit all tropical and warm temperate seas. The largest confirmed whale shark measured 41.5 feet or 12.65 meters and weighed in at 47,000 lbs or 21.5 tons. With that said written in literature of the past is a whale shark that measured 68.9 feet or 21 meters but no scientific evidence can back this up. In 2011 over 400 whale sharks gathered off the Yucatan Coast. It was one of the largest gatherings recorded.
These slow moving filter feeding carpet sharks feed almost exclusively on plankton. They originated around 60 million years ago and have a lifespan of 70 to 100 years. The species was first distinguished on April 1828 after a 15 ft or 4.5 meter shark was caught. The name “whale” shark is in reference to their vast size and being a filter feeder like baleen whales. Their big mouths open up to 5 feet or 1.5 meters wide which contain 300 to 350 row of- tiny teeth and 10 filter pads which filters feed. They have 5 pairs of gills, small eye located on the front and a spotted body pattern that is unique to every individual. Not typically but they have been known to dive as deep at 5,900 feet or 1,800 meters for food. While never witnessed mating or giving birth in the wild scientists do know the whale shark pups develop inside eggs that remain in the mother’s body until they are ready to hatch.
The whale shark is a very docile shark that poses no threat to divers and swimming. Divers have also been known to catch a ride on their fins but don’t do this, interfering with a wild animals habits can lead them closer to humanity where they will be in danger of ships, boats and tourism. Attempts to keep these oversized fish in aquariums has been met with much failure. Chinese aquariums drastically undersized for the size of whale shark resulted in early deaths of the fish. Other aquariums around the world have achieved better life spans from their whale sharks but still not as long as they would live in the wild. While it’s cool to see them up close it’s best not to support these facilities as they are essentially prisons for these sharks.
Do you think you could snorkel or dive right beside a whale shark? Let us know in the comments down below.
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