Legends of monsters from the deep are all very well if those monsters stay in the depth of the oceans. But, can you imagine being on a boat as one such monster appears on the surface? Whale sharks hold the honor of being the largest shark on the planet and the biggest fish alive today. Their huge size dwarfs many human boats. In this video, shot in the Red Sea, we see a whale shark slowly making its way to the surface. Very gradually, its hazy outline comes into focus and we appreciate the magnitude of this monster. It’s clear from the cries from the boat that this individual is making quite an impression on the onlookers!
Whale Sharks – The Giant of the Fish
Whale sharks are extraordinary animals. They are not whales at all but are very large fish – around the size of a school bus and weigh over 60 tons! In terms of habitat, they prefer warm tropical seas – ideally between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Their body has the shape of a shark but they have very large and flat heads and their mouth is right at the front. This is a gigantic mouth – up to five feet wide. They use it to scoop up water as they swim to pick up food – a method called passive feeding. Then, they close their mouths and release the water through their gills leaving the food in their baleen filters from where it is swallowed.
Whale sharks like to eat small creatures only so their diet consists of small crabs and squid as well as sardines, anchovies, and krill. It does have teeth but does not use them for feeding. Thanks to their excellent camouflage (dark grey on top and lighter on the belly) they are fairly hidden in the water.
Unlike some other sharks, they are not aggressive towards humans and divers often approach them without getting injured. There are even instances where humans have held onto their dorsal fins and enjoyed a ‘ride’ through the water. These guys have a reputation for being fascinated by boats and often swim up to them and even bump into them. But they are simply being nosey and do not mean any harm. It’s still easy to see how this would have been quite alarming for the people on the boats though!
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