Whale Shark Introduction
The Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) is a slow-moving, filter-feeding Carpet Shark and the largest known extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 18.8 m. (62 ft) The Whale Shark holds many records for size in the animal kingdom, most notably being by far the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate.
It is the sole member of the genus Rhincodon and the only extant member of the family Rhincodontidae. 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 2,000 ft deep).
In this part of the ocean, food is scarcer, so 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 these sharks have been known to be almost playful towards humans.
Keywords to learn
Vertebrate: an animal of a large group distinguished by the possession of a backbone or spinal column, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes.
Filter-feeding: feeding by filtering out plankton or nutrients suspended in the water.
Hey Kids, my name is Wendy the Whale Shark and I am very happy to meet you. Learn more about me and my species @ www.kids.nationalgeographic.com
Key Whale Shark Bat Data
- Lifespan:60-70 years.
- Scientific Name:Rhincodon Typus.
- Mass:13,607-18,144kg (15-20 tons)
- Length:10-12.2m (33-40ft)
- Region found:All tropical seas.
- Population Status:Endangered.
- Current population trend:Decreasing.
- Sexual maturity:30 years.
The Whale Shark is called a Whale Shark for a reason. It’s a shark that kind of looks like a whale. Also, because the shark is quite large, like a Whale! Enter the Whale Shark!!
Now that you know more about the Whale Shark by learning the key data above, be sure also to check out the fun facts. When you are finished learning the facts, try answering the questions in the Q&A corner on the bottom right side of the page.
Download questions about the Whale Shark here: Whale Shark (answers are on this page)
Teachers. For more in depth work sheets on the Whale Shark. Click on Kidskonnect Worksheets
Whale Shark Fun Facts for Kids
- # 1. 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 pups that are around 60 cm long.
- # 2. Whale Sharks grow quickly during their first few years and soon the 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.
- # 3. Whale Sharks are one of only 3 known species of sharks that filter feed.
- # 4. Preferring warm waters, whale sharks populate all tropical seas. They are known to migrate every spring to the continental shelf of the central west coast of Australia. The coral spawning of the area’s Ningaloo Reef provides the Whale Shark with an abundant supply of plankton.
- # 5. The Whale Shark’s flattened head sports a blunt snout above its mouth with short barbells protruding from its nostrils. Its back and sides are gray to brown with white spots among pale vertical and horizontal stripes, and its belly is white. Its two dorsal fins are set rearward on its body, which ends in a large dual-lobbed caudal fin (or tail).
- # 1. What was the length of the largest confirmed Whale Sharks?
- # 2. How deep can the Whale Shark dive down?
- # 3. What is the average lifespan of the Whale Shark?
- # 4. When the female gives birth to her pups how big are they on average?
- # 5. How many species of shark filter feed?