Whale Shark

From Microcosm Aquarium Explorer

Rhincodon typus - Smith, 1928
Whale Shark

Rhincodon typus.jpg

World's largest fish. [[credit:=WhaleShark.org]]

Overview

A gentle behemoth, it is a shark without biting teeth and a whalelike body form that has been accurately measured at more than 12.7 m (42 ft.) in length, weighing more than 21.5 metric tonnes (47,300 lb.). Unconfirmed reports of much larger specimens exist, with sizes of up to 17 m (56 ft.) in length and weighing 37 metric tonnes (81,500 lb.) informally recorded.

Its beautifully patterned body has earned the name "Pez Dama" or "Domino Shark" in Latin America.

With a huge, boxlike head and massive mouth that serves to allow the intake of zooplankton and small fishes, the Whale Shark is a filter feeder and harmless to humans (although the tail flukes must be respected).

Whale Sharks roam the tropical and temperate seas, migrating long distances and frequently diving to great depths (1,500 m - 4,921 ft.), while feeding in shallow areas with concentrated food supplies.

It's Red List status is "Vulnerable," although it is still taken in some parts of the world and processed for it fins, tofu-like flesh, oily liver, and skin, which is used a form of marine leather.

Family: Rhincodontidae

Other common name(s):

Native range:

Habitat: Wide-ranging throughout the oceans (oceandromous), migrating to areas with seasonal feeding opportunities and, it is believed, to other areas for mating and birthing. They sometimes move into shallow areas but also, for unknown reasons, regularly make rapid deep dives to depths of 700 m (2,300 ft.).

Maximum length: 2000 cm (787 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 22,700,000 L (5,996,706 gal)

Water: Marine 18 °C (64 °F) - 30 °C (86 °F)

General swimming level: All levels.

Feeding

Carnivore. Filters plankton, small fishes, fish eggs from the water column.

Aquarium Compatibility

Just a handful of Whale Sharks are exhibited by public aquaria in Japan and at the Georgia Aquarium. Very large spaces are required and researchers are still working to understand their feeding and long-term care requirements in captivity. Mortalities of captive sharks have occurred, but shark biologists are generally supportive of efforts to provide the public with opportunities to observe these magnificent fish.

Breeding/Propagation

Ovoviparous. Produces eggs that develop and hatch internally in the female, with fully formed young being delivered at birth. There is no parental care exhibited. A post-mortem examination of a pregnant female found more than 300 pups in a single litter.

Text credit: JL