Whale shark

Species profile

Name: the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a slow-moving, filter-feeding shark that is recognised as the largest fish in the world.

Appearance: whale sharks have distinctively wide mouths that can reach 1.5 metres across. Their heads are wide and flat with two small eyes at the front. They are typically a grey colour with a white belly. Their skin is marked with pale spots and stripes which are unique to each individual.

Size: the average size of adult whale sharks is around 9.8 metres long although several sharks over 18 metres in length have been reported. The largest verified whale shark measured  12.7 metres long and weighed over 21 tonnes.

Diet: whale sharks are one of only three species of filter-feeding shark (along with the basking and megamouth sharks). They feed almost exclusively on plankton and small fish, and pose no threat to humans.

Did you know: whale sharks reach sexual maturity at around 30 years old and are estimated to live for 70 to 100 years. A female whale shark was caught in 1996 which was pregnant with 300 pups. Whale sharks carry pups inside them as they are not all born at once. Instead, the female retains sperm after mating and gives birth to a steady stream of pups over long periods of time. 

Location: they inhabit all tropical and warm-temperate seas. They typically live in open waters although they are known to congregate at specific coastal sites to feed.

Best places to see whale sharks

According to reports submitted to WildSide, the best places to see whale sharks are as follows:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Galapagos Islands
Ecuador
0%
very low
4.8
very good
2
reports
Osa Peninsula
Costa Rica
0%
very low
4.5
very good
1
reports
Mirissa Sri
Lanka
0%
very low
4.0
very good
2
reports

Photo credit: NOAA Photo Library, under a Creative Commons license from Flickr