Whale sharks are majestic monsters of the deep which are always breaking records – but how much do you really know about these watery behemoths? What really makes the average whale shark tick – where can you find them, and are they likely to take a nibble on you if you get too close? Let’s take a look at a few interesting facts about whale sharks that might surprise you:
Their names can be confusing – they have nothing to do with whales, but they are sharks. However, they get their whale name from their sheer size – they are absolutely massive!
Let’s talk figures, if we’re considering size. A whale shark could get to be as big as 12m in length, or 40 feet! They can weigh up to 20 tons, on the whole. That makes them likely to go shoulder to shoulder with some of the bulkiest traffic on our roads right now!
The whale shark’s mouth is big enough to swallow some people whole, They have mouths which extend up to five feet, or a metre and a half wide.
Whale sharks are carnivores; however, they eat much differently compared to other sharks and meat-hunting fish. They have more than 3,000 teeth, but don’t actually use them to tear and eat flesh. They simply swallow and filter – highly efficient to swim along like a big fish-shaped scoop!
Whale sharks are amazingly patient, especially when it comes to gobbling up prey. They will often skulk around for hours at a time for eggs to be laid, before swimming up and gulping them down. They can be very sneaky!
The whale shark is likely to gobble down a variety of different critters, with squid and smaller fish likely to be high up on their menu, on the whole.
As you can imagine, whale sharks are the biggest fish on the planet, not just the biggest sharks. That’s an impressive record, given how many different beasties there are out there.
Don’t worry – despite their massive nature, they are fairly friendly around humans, and are unlikely to pose threats to scuba divers. It’s perfectly possible and safe to swim with and around whale sharks, though safety is, as always, recommended.
Whale sharks have the ability to grow to be a ripe old age – they can live to survive to be over 100 years old in the wild, though unfortunately, 90% of all whale sharks are unlikely to survive their childhoods, according to official conservation sources.
In fact, there are massive whale shark conservation efforts always going on. That’s as a result of accidental fishing causing them to be caught and trapped. However, aspects of climate change, pollution and plastic damage, too, are likely to be steadily destroying their habitats.
It’s thought that the whale shark population across the globe has already shrunk by up to 63% in the past 75 years. Therefore, efforts to try and protect these wonderful creatures have been ramping up hugely over the past few decades.
It’s likely that you will find whale sharks in some of the warmer waters of the world, however, it is not unheard of to find them off the coast of the US. They’ve been seen in the Atlantic, but you’ll normally spot them while traversing the Pacific.
The whale shark is likely to breathe in 6,000 litres of water each and every hour. It has some really powerful gills to say the very least!
However, as a result of their huge size, it’s unlikely you will ever see a whale shark moving too fast. The fastest they can swim is at a trundle of around three miles per hour. However, as they are so massive, they’re unlikely to come under threat of anything natural below the waves.
Whale sharks have unique, interesting heads compared to other sharks. That’s because their mouths position towards the front of their heads, not underneath. This, of course, helps them to uniquely scoop and filter their prey, as you can imagine.
Whale sharks actually lack the power to chew, meaning that despite its many teeth, they will only ever act as a filter mechanism.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about whale sharks that we’ve not mentioned? Share them here in the comments section below!