Whale sharks are one of the most popular and sought-after species of marine animals that divers look for throughout the world. Being in the water with these massive, majestic, and graceful creatures is unlike any other experience in life.
If you have ever been on a diving expedition and been lucky enough to swim near a whale shark, you know how addicting it can be and you are probably aching to do it all over again.
Photo Credit: stokes rx
And if you have never been able to dive with a whale shark before, you are probably looking for the best dive sites around the world where the experience is possible.
Even though whale sharks are so popular amongst divers, though, many people still do not know a lot about this interesting animal. Therefore, we have compiled 9 interesting facts about whale sharks that you can read below to get to know this amazing creature a bit better.
1. Whale Sharks are the Largest Fish in the Sea
Whale sharks are actually the largest fish species alive today. Known as gentle giants, they can reach an incredible 12 meters or more in length on average. However, they have also been known to reach as much as 19 meters in size.
They can also weigh a whopping 29,000 kilograms, or over 30 metric tons. If you thought some species of sharks were big, they are actually very small compared to this giant of the sea.
2. Despite Their Size, They Feed on Plankton
Rather than swallowing up large fish and marine mammals, or even humans for that matter, whale sharks prefer to feed on a steady diet of plankton.
These include the tiniest fish and plants, as well as very small crustaceans. They typically feed close to the water's surface and they do so by gulping massive amounts of water and filtering it for food.
Photo Credit: nicoboxethai
3. They are Found Throughout the World
Whale sharks prefer warm waters, but you can find them swimming throughout the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans. Some dive sites host these creatures for a large part of the year while others only enjoy them during certain months, so be sure to book your diving trip accordingly if your goal is to dive or snorkel with one of these fish in real life.
The best chance to encounter a whale shark year round would be in:
- Taiwan (east coast)
4. You Can Tell Males and Females Apart
To determine whether or not you are swimming with a male or a female whale shark, look for a pair of claspers, which are special appendages only found on males. These are used during mating. Also, females are actually larger in size than their male counterparts.
5. Babies are Much Smaller and Born from Eggs
Even though whale sharks are huge when they reach their adult size, it is a completely different story when these animals are born.
Although you may at first assume that they are quite large even when they are babies, they are actually really small. When born, a whale shark will only be less than a meter long. Also, a female will lay her eggs only after they have developed inside her body.
6. They Migrate Over Very Long Distances
Whale sharks are known as a migratory species. Again, this is why you will find them in certain dive sites only during specific times of the year.
But what is truly amazing is that they can travel up to 13,000 kilometers over several months while on a particular migration.
7. They Have a Very Long Life Expectancy
Although scientists are not exactly clear on how long whale sharks can live, they do estimate that a whale shark that is not hunted down can live for perhaps as long as 100-150 years, though a more typical lifespan would probably be around 70 years. Also, these animals do not begin reproducing until they are about 30 years old.
Planning a scuba trip to dive or snorkel with Whale sharks? Then you should download the ultimate scuba dive checklist just like 5000+ other divers already so you will not forget to bring anything.
8. Whale Sharks are Cartilaginous
Like other shark species, as well as rays and skates, whale sharks are cartilaginous.
This means that they do not have a skeletal structure made of bones like other fish do. Instead, their bodies are made up of tough, flexible tissue called cartilage.
9. They are Considered Vulnerable
Even though whale sharks are listed as a vulnerable species, they are still hunted by humans in certain parts of Asia, including the Philippines.
If the hunting is not controlled, the species may be put at greater risk of going extinct. Therefore, humans should do their best to protect this species and its habitats throughout the world.
Would you like to go dive with Whale Sharks? Feel free to contact us. We have multiple partners that offer dive packages and scuba lessons.
Have you ever dived with Whale sharks? Let us know in the comments below
Blog written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.