Though Whale Sharks are the largest fish on the planet, these “gentle giants” are filter-feeders and therefore are harmless to humans. Being a filter-feeder means these large creatures (which can reach over 40 ft.) feed on tiny ocean organisms- plankton. These fish have skeletons made entirely of cartilage, rather than bone like the majority of sea animals. The pattern of spots around the gill area on a Whale Shark are unique to each individual allowing researchers to identify individual sharks. The mouth of the whale shark can reach a width of approximately 3 feet.
Whale sharks can be found in waters of over 100 countries, but typically stay in tropical and warm temperate seas, both in oceanic and coastal waters.
Whale sharks live long lives and therefore mature late- doesn’t produce offspring until 30+ years of age.
Current threats to the whale shark include: habitat loss, coastal development, collision with boats, and disturbance by boats/divers engaged in irresponsible tourism activities.