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Whale Shark

Male Whale Shark at Georgia AquariumWhale Shark off Tofo Beach, MozambiqueAsmall (4m) Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) in the MaldivesWhale shark at Osaka AquariumWhale Shark (Rhincodon Typus)
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Whale Shark Facts

Five groups that classify all living things
A group of animals within the animal kingdom
A group of animals within a pylum
A group of animals within a class
A group of animals within an order
A group of animals within a family
Scientific Name:
The name of the animal in science
Rhincodon Typus
The animal group that the species belongs to
What kind of foods the animal eats
How long (L) or tall (H) the animal is
10-12.2m (33-40ft)
The measurement of how heavy the animal is
13,607-18,144kg (15-20tons)
Top Speed:
The fastest recorded speed of the animal
16km/h (10mph)
How long the animal lives for
60-70 years
Whether the animal is solitary or sociable
Conservation Status:
The likelihood of the animal becoming extinct
The colour of the animal's coat or markings
Brown, Blue, Grey
Skin Type:
The protective layer of the animal
Favourite Food:
The preferred food of this animal
The specific area where the animal lives
Warm coastal waters and open ocean
Average Litter Size:
The average number of babies born at once
Main Prey:
The food that the animal gains energy from
Krill, Plankton, Crab, Fish
Other animals that hunt and eat the animal
Human, Sharks, Killer Whale
Special Features:
Characteristics unique to this animal
Enormous streamlined body and broad, flat head

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Whale Shark Location

Map of Whale Shark Locations

Whale Shark

The whale shark is the largest species of fish with some adult whale sharks growing to nearly 50ft long! The whale shark is thought to have developed around 60 million years ago making the whale shark one of the oldest species on Earth today.

The whale shark spends its life swimming through the open oceans in search of fish and squid. Unlike many other species of shark, the whale shark is known to feed on large shoals of tiny fish rather than hunting bigger fish and sea mammals. This makes the whale shark a filter feeder similar to whales and smaller sea animals.

The whale shark inhabits the warm, tropical waters around the equator and despite often being found close to coastlines, the whale shark is also known to dive to depths of up to 700 meters (that over 2,000ft deep). In this part of the ocean, food is more scarce and the whale shark will therefore only venture to such depths if hunting in the shallower waters is not possible.

The whale shark is the perfect example of a so-called friendly shark and to date have posed no significant threat to humans (mainly divers). The whale shark is most commonly spotted around the Gulf of Mexico and the Indonesian Islands where the whale sharks have been known to be almost playful towards humans.

Female whale sharks incubate their eggs inside them rather than outside. This means that whale sharks effectively give birth to live young. Inside the female whale shark are hundreds of eggs but only a few actually turn into baby whale sharks. The remaining eggs are thought to be there so that when the whale shark pups hatch, they have something to eat. The female whale shark gives birth to an average litter of 12 whale shark pups that are around 60 cm long.

Whale sharks grow quickly during their first few years and soon the whale shark pups are extremely big and therefore less likely to be hunted by marine predators such as other shark species and killer whales. Whale sharks tend to live for around 60 to 80 years but have been known be more than 100 years old.

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First Published: 10th December 2008, Last Updated: 8th November 2019

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2. David Burnie, Kingfisher (2011) The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia [Accessed at: 01 Jan 2011]
3. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals [Accessed at: 10 Dec 2008]
4. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) The Atlas Of Endangered Species [Accessed at: 01 Jan 2009]
5. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals [Accessed at: 10 Dec 2008]