The whale shark happens to be the biggest shark alive. What’s more? It’s also the largest fish in the world. For an animal this big, it would be easy to assume that the whale shark would be a deadly apex predator that could kill humans anytime it felt like it. But is the whale shark really dangerous or aggressive? Find out here.
What Kind of Predators are Whale Sharks?
The whale shark doesn’t show the typical predatory instincts we see with other marine predators. Take, for example, the great white shark, which is deemed to be the biggest marine predator in the world, is an active hunter who loves to eat pinnipeds like seals, sea lions, and other aquatic animals.
On the other hand, the whale shark doesn’t hunt prey. All it does is open its five feet wide mouth to let in water. Then it filters out the organisms found in the water by closing its mouth and expelling the water through its gills. The animals they feed on include anchovies, krills, sardines, jellyfishes, mackerel, crabs, and squids. This feeding method is passive and does not measure up to the active, fiery manner in which marine predators dominate their prey. Also, they do not use their teeth in their feeding process, making scientists wonder what the teeth are there for.
Aside from this, there is a limit to the size of animals the whale shark can swallow. The reason for this is the narrow size of its throat, which cannot grow past the size of the human fist. Also, it seems loyal to its diet of small fish and other smaller marine animals. It spits out anything that it is not used to. The whale fish might be big, but it is not your typical example of a marine apex predator.
Is the Whale Shark Dangerous or Aggressive?
For a fish so big, the whale shark could cause serious trouble under the sea. Its size is enough to help it defeat any enemy it might encounter in the waters. However, there has never been any report or footage that shows any evidence of this great fish doing this. This aquatic giant is so peaceful that it has been nicknamed a gentle giant.
The whale shark is docile and shows no signs of aggression whatsoever. It is also not considered a dangerous species. It is listed among the nine animals that aren’t as dangerous as people consider them. The gentleness of this species ends up becoming its undoing when it grows old. Its docile character becomes more dominant as the whale shark ages, making it easy to attack by great whites and other marine apex predators.
Are Whale Sharks Dangerous To Humans?
Despite their enormous size, whale sharks are not known to spell any danger to humans. They are not predators, and though they are carnivores, they are not interested in humans. Furthermore, the size of their throat makes it practically impossible for a whale shark to swallow a human being. These huge fishes are not known to get aggressive, nor have any provocation incidences. In fact, human divers are known to feel at home and safe in the water when whale sharks are present.
Whale sharks are known to serve two great purposes for divers. The first is a means of transportation. It is usual for a diver to hang onto the dorsal fin of a moving whale shark. This is a faster way to move in the water as the whale shark is faster than the average human in the water. It would also help the diver to conserve its strength. The whale shark’s second purpose is safety, as no sane fish in the water would attack such an enormous fish. The whale shark shows no aggression, but its size is enough reason for every animal to keep away. It’s like the elephant and the big cats like the lions and tigers; the big cats seldom attack elephants due to their intimidating size. It is the same story as the whale shark and most ocean predators.
This huge fish species is not harmful to humans and can even be considered friendly. Humans do not reciprocate this friendliness as they pose a severe threat to this huge fish. Human beings hunt these fish species for their meat and liver oil. The species has already been declared endangered and is protected in some parts of the world. However, they are still hunted legally and illegally in other parts of the world, with Asia heading the hunter list.
The whale shark is not dangerous to humans and is not aggressive towards them.
How to Approach Whale Sharks
Although these big giants are free from humans, there are still rules regarding our interactions with them. While they may not hurt anybody if they feel uneasy, they will take off and ruin the snorkel or diving party for everyone involved. To approach a whale shark, you must take note of the following:
Reduce noise to the barest minimum around them. Do not jump into the water but go down quietly with your feet first.
Don’t try to touch the animal as it is incredibly sensitive. Try to keep your distance and do not get too close.
Don’t panic no matter what. This giant is not interested in you as much as you might think. It might just want to change direction or something. If it swims towards you, swim sideways to let it get through.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Onusa Putapitak/Shutterstock.com
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