Whale sharks are the largest fish alive today. They are also the largest shark. Unlike most sharks, whale sharks are gentle giants that feed on a diet of only plankton, which are tiny organisms that drift in all ocean waters. They can’t bite or chew so they must take in large amounts of water and filter out whatever food may be in it.
Whale sharks are an average of about 40 feet long and weigh around 11 tons! That is about the size of a bus! Because of their huge size, they must travel long distances to get enough food to eat. They live in tropical ocean waters and mostly travel alone. They are easy to identify because of their large size and their spotted skin. Each individual has its own spot pattern – kind of like our fingerprints! Even though they are huge, they are gentle, so you will often find snorkelers and divers swimming and interacting with them.
Whale sharks give birth to live pups, but many don’t survive to adulthood. Babies are only about a foot long when they are born. For whale sharks that do make it to adulthood, they can live anywhere from about 60-100 years old.
- A whale shark’s skin is 4 inches thick!
- Whale sharks are slow, swimming at only 3 mph!