Whale Shark Size Comparison: The Largest Shark

Written by Megan Martin
Updated: December 30, 2021
Image Credit Rich Carey/Shutterstock.com
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Whale Shark Size Comparison: whale shark, human, basking shark, great white shark, school bus
Whale sharks are the largest type of shark!

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There’s no doubt that the ocean is home to some of the largest animals found on the planet, including the largest. While the whale shark isn’t the largest (that honor goes to the blue whale), it’s definitely one of the larger critters found in the great unknown. However, you probably won’t find a whale shark at your favorite aquarium, making it hard to know just how big they are. That’s when a whale shark size comparison like this comes in handy.

From comparing the whale shark to other sharks to even a school bus, this whale shark size comparison is just the right tool for knowing all the whale shark size facts you need to know. Ready to learn more? Dive on in!

How Big is a Whale Shark?

Animals That Live in Coral Reefs: Whale Sharks
Some whale sharks can grow to be 60 feet long – though they start out at only 25 inches long!

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With a name combining two of the largest sea critters around, it comes as no surprise that the whale shark is big. In fact, it’s big enough that it has earned the title of the largest shark!

The largest whale shark ever recorded was 61.7 feet long. Each letter in the famous Hollywood sign is only 49 feet tall! On average, though, these gentle giants tend to measure anywhere from 18 to 32.8 feet, with a 30-foot whale shark spotted in the summer of 2021. . But when they’re just born? Baby whale sharks only measure a measly 25 inches – the same as the pillow you sleep with!

Just the whale shark’s mouth can be four feet wide. Unlike many sharks you may know well, such as the great white shark, whale sharks only eat small animals like plankton and shrimp thanks to their tiny teeth.

While its size is definitely impressive, it’s the whale shark’s weight that’s a mouthful. A single adult whale shark can weigh as much as 41,000 pounds, or three African elephants

Because it has a skeleton made out of cartilage instead of real bones, it can be hard to know exactly how long the whale sharks of the past were, even if only a few decades ago. However, if they’re anything like the whale sharks we see today, they were one of the biggest animals around too!

Human Vs. Whale Shark Size Comparison

Whale Shark Size Comparison: whale shark, human, basking shark, great white shark, school bus
Just a whale shark’s fin is almost as large as a person!

A-Z-Animals.com

If you’ve ever wanted to take an immersive trip underwater, the back of a whale shark is the way to do it. Not only do you not need to worry about them eating you, but with their size, they could take you and 71 of your friends on the deep-sea adventure of a lifetime!

At 32 feet long, the average whale shark is nearly 6 times the height of an adult human. The largest whale shark is more than ten times as large. Just one of the whale shark’s fins is nearly 5 feet in height (extra cargo space for youth passengers aboard the Deep-Sea Express)!

However, while a whale shark size comparison to a human is impressive enough based on size – after all, could you just imagine swimming beside one of these gentle giants – their weight is what takes the cake. A single whale shark can weigh as many as 275 people. That’s around the same as the population of Bombay Beach, California! 

Basking Shark Vs. Whale Shark Size

Biggest Fish: Basking Shark
Basking sharks are another plankton-eating supersized shark. How do they compare to the whale shark?

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The basking shark and the whale shark are similar in many respects. For one, they share a similar diet, with both eating more of the smaller animals of the sea than their top predator cousins. One other thing they have in common? Their size!

The largest basking shark was around 39 feet long, meaning that it falls right in the middle of the whale shark’s possible length, though larger than the typical whale shark. However, it’s more likely to find an adult measuring in at around 25 feet, which is still nearly neck at neck with the whale shark.

However, while these two gentle sharks are comparable in terms of size, weight is where there differences come in at.

The average basking shark is around 11,000 pounds, or the same weight as a certain types of RVs. Compared to the whale shark, it could take nearly four basking sharks to equal the weight of a single very large adult whale shark. That’s what we call a shiver!

Great White Vs. Whale Shark Size

Great white shark in the ocean
Great white shark in the ocean

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Largest predatory shark versus largest shark: it’s a tough competition, for sure. However, this time, it’s safe to say the whale shark wins – just by a fin.

Great White sharks didn’t earn their name for no reason. These top oceanic predators can grow to an outstanding 21 feet in length and can weigh as much as 5,000 pounds. That’s around twice a 10-foot shipping container that you may see on a boat. 

However, while they earned their place as largest predatory shark for sure, they don’t come close to the whale shark. In fact, while they’re not too far off in terms of length, it can take nearly 8 of the largest great white sharks to weigh the same as one large adult whale shark.

School Bus Vs. Whale Shark Size

Biggest Fish: Whale Shark
This diver next to a whale shark should give you an idea of just how big they are!

Lindsey Lu/Shutterstock.com

When you see an animal as large as a whale shark, it’s hard to compare them to anything except for a bus. After all, buses are probably one of the few things that we’re all familiar with that rival the whale shark’s massive size. However, just how accurate is this whale shark size comparison?

Turns out you’ll need a couple of buses to equal the same size as a whale shark!

The average size school bus is 40 feet long, though some can be as small as 20. While this outmatches, or ties, with the average whale shark, it’s still only a fraction of the weight of the largest whale shark ever. 

And, just like the great white, while a school bus may rival the average whale shark in size, it’s not even a competition when it comes to weight. The average school bus here in the United States weighs around 24,387 pounds, just more than half that of a whale shark. Even with 72 passengers on board, the school bus still can’t balance the scale with the whale shark. Talk about gentle giants!

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About the Author

I'm a content writer with almost five years of experience. I recently graduated from Wingate University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a double minor in biology and professional and technical writing. The American kestrel is my favorite animal, but I also like sharks and alligators. In my free time, I like to write creative fiction, watch documentaries, and explore nature.

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