Articles on this page are available in 2 other languages: Spanish (1), Chinese (Simplified) (4) (learn more)

Overview

Brief Summary

Description

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world; with its vast size it resembles the whales from which its common name is derived. The head is flattened and the wide mouth, positioned at the tip of the snout, stretches almost as wide as the body. The dorsal fin is particularly large and the tail has a half-moon shape. The patterning of the body is very distinctive with its dark greyish-blue colour on the back and sides, and array of pale yellow blotches; the undersurface is pale (5). Stout ridges travel the length of the body, ending at the tail shaft (6). Five massive gill slits occur on the side of the head and within these there is a sieve like structure of cartilage (5). Curiously, the mouth contains around 300 tiny teeth although the function of these is unknown (6).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 1 person

Average rating: 4.0 of 5

Biology

These sharks are usually solitary, but loose groups of up to 100 individuals have been sighted, often when they are feeding (5). Whale sharks appear to be highly migratory (2), and have been tracked for thousands of kilometres (7). Individuals who regularly visit the Ningaloo Reef in Australia, between March and May every year, appear to be mainly immature males (8). It is not clear whether movements across deep ocean basins follow prey routes or are undertaken for other reasons. Very little is known about the reproduction of the world's largest fish, but in 1995, one pregnant female was captured who contained nearly 300 foetuses (5). The species is ovoviviparous; the young hatch from eggs retained within the mother so that she then gives birth to live young. Whale sharks are fairly docile creatures and feed on planktonic organisms and small fish by suction filter-feeding (2). This species is thought to be a more dynamic filter-feeder than, for example, the basking shark, actively sucking food in through their vast mouths and passing the water over the gill arches, where prey are retained and then swallowed (5). They have also been observed actively swimming through shoals of fish with their mouth agape or hanging vertically in the water and drawing food into their mouths (8).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Comprehensive Description

Biology

World's largest fish, which is harmless to humans (Ref. 6871). Specimens rarely above 12 m. Often seen offshore but coming close inshore, sometimes entering lagoons or coral atolls (Ref. 247). Sometimes seen cruising near outer wall (Ref. 26938). Reported to frequent shallow water areas near estuaries and river mouths, sometimes during seasonal shrimp blooms (Ref. 48696). Found singly, or in aggregations of over 100 individuals (Ref. 5578). Often associated with groups of pelagic fishes, especially scombrids (Ref. 247). Highly migratory between ocean basins and national jurisdictions, but returns to the same sites annually (Ref. 48672). Feed on planktonic and nektonic prey, such as small fishes (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, juvenile tunas and albacore), small crustaceans and squids (Ref. 247). Often seen in a vertical position with the head at or near the surface when feeding (Ref. 13571). When actively feeding on zooplankton the sharks turn their heads from side to side, with part of the head lifted out of the water, and the mouth opened and closed 7-28 times per minute; these suction gulps were synchronized with the opening and closing of the gill slits (Ref. 35680). Ovoviviparous, litter size is over 300 pups (Ref. 37816, 43278). Females of 438 to 562 cm are immature (FIGIS 09/2003). Utilized fresh, frozen, dried and salted for human consumption, liver processed for oil, fins used for shark-fin soup, offal probably for fishmeal (Ref. 13571), cartilage for health supplements and skin for leather products (Ref. 48723). Used in Chinese medicine (Ref. 12166). Highly valued commodity in ecotourism operations. Populations have been depleted in several countries by harpoon fisheries (Ref. 48696).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Source: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 1 person

Average rating: 4.0 of 5

Description

  Common names: shark (English), tiburón (Espanol)
 
Rhincodon typus Smith, 1828


Whale shark


Robust body; snout very short and broad; eye small, round; mouth wide, transverse, a little behind tip of snout; five long gill slits, last three over pectoral fin; two dorsal fins, first over pelvics, second and smaller fin over anal;  tail fin almost symmetrical, with large lower lobe; tail base flattened, with large keel that continues forward as crest along body and over gill slits, with two more crests above along body.


Dark, with prominent white spots.


Size: 12 m (old visual records to 21 m).

Habitat: pelagic in nearshore and offshore waters.

Depth: 0-240 m.

This species is distributed worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas, including throughout the eastern Pacific.   
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© Shorefishes of the tropical eastern Pacific online information system. www.stri.org/sftep

Source: Shorefishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific Online Information System

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

Geographic Range

Whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, are generally found between latitudes of 30 degrees N and 35 degrees S. Whale sharks congregate throughout the year at several different areas that provide prime feeding opportunities. These areas include Ningaloo Reef off of western Australia in March and April, the Belize Barrier Reef in April and May, and off of North Island, New Zealand from November to April. This species also gathers in the Sea of Cortez but with no seasonal regularity.

Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); australian (Native ); oceanic islands (Native ); indian ocean (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native ); pacific ocean (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: cosmopolitan

  • Clark, E. 1992. Gentle monsters of the deep: whale sharks. National Geographic, 182/6: 120-139.
  • Duffy, C. 2002. Distribution, seasonality, lengths and feeding behavior of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) observed in New Zealand waters. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 36: 565-570.
  • Eckert, S., B. Stewart. 2001. Telemetry and satellite tracking of whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico and the north Pacific ocean. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 60: 299-308.
  • Gunn, J., J. Stevens, T. Davis, B. Norman. 1999. Observations on the short-term movements and behaviour of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Marine Biology, 135: 553-559.
  • Heyman, W., R. Graham, B. Kjerfve, R. Johannes. 2001. Whale sharks Rhincodon typus aggregate to feed on fish spawn in Belize. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 215: 275-282.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 1 person

Average rating: 4.0 of 5

Circumglobal in tropical and warm temperate seas. Western Atlantic: New York, USA through the Caribbean to central Brazil.
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© WoRMS for SMEBD

Source: World Register of Marine Species

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Range Description

Whale Sharks are found in all tropical and warm temperate seas except the Mediterranean (Compagno 1984a, Wolfson 1986, Last and Stevens 1994). Although the range of this species typically lies between latitudes 30°N and 35°S, it has occasionally been sighted at latitudes as high as 41°N and 36.5°S (Wolfson 1986). Whale Sharks are known to inhabit both deep and shallow coastal waters and the lagoons of coral atolls and reefs (Demetrios 1979, Wolfson 1983). Iwasaki (1970) reported that they are found in surface seawater temperatures between 18?30°C, but most frequently occur in surface sea-water between 21? 25°C. Archival tags have recorded dives to over 700 m and a water temperature of 7.8°C off the coast of Belize (Graham and Roberts in prep.).

Whale Sharks are found almost all year round off the east coast of Taiwan (Province of China) (Leu et al. 1997), Honduras (A. Antoniou pers. comm.) and near the Seychelles (Gudger 1932). Ongoing studies on the population of Whale Sharks around Seychelles inner islands indicate that, although occasional shark sightings are made throughout the year, there are two seasonal peak sighting periods from June to August and October to November (Marine Conservation Society Seychelles, unpubl.). Similar patterns of infrequent year-round sightings and seasonal feeding aggregations of larger numbers (tens, to low hundreds) are recorded from many areas. Aggregations of whale shark occur in Indian coastal waters between December and April (Silas 1986), March? June in Tanzania (Yahya and Jiddawi pers. comm.), in Mozambique and northern KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) from November to January (Beckley et al. 1997), off the coast of Somalia in September, off Chile during October, in the Sea of Cortez around May?June and October? November, in the Gulf of Mexico between August and September (Clark and Nelson 1997), off the coast of Belize in April/May to June (Heyman et al. 2001), in the Bohol Sea of the Philippines between April and May (Trono 1996, Alava et al. 2002), in the Coral Sea, near the Great Barrier Reef during November and December (McPherson 1990), at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia in March? May (Norman 1999) and at Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean between November and January. There are also occasional reports from the Florida Keys (E. De Sabata pers. comm.). Although whale sharks have been sighted in numerous other regions, these sightings are generally sporadic and seasonal.

Recent developments in electronic and satellite tagging of Whale Sharks have demonstrated that these animals undertake multi-annual and very long-distance migrations. These include over 2,000 km from north-west Australia towards Asia (pers. obs. 2002), 550 km within a few weeks (Graham and Roberts in prep.), a 2,000 km two month migration from the Mindanao Sea, inner Philippines, to 280 km south of Vietnam (Eckert et al. 2002) and a 13,000 km migration in over 37 months from the Gulf of California, Mexico, to near Tonga (Eckert and Stewart 2001). Three sharks tagged in the Seychelles, Indian Ocean, in 2001 travelled west to Zanzibar, north-west to Somalia, and over 5,000 km to the coast of Thailand, respectively (Rowat 2002).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Zoogeography

See Map (including site records) of Distribution in the Tropical Eastern Pacific 
 
Global Endemism: All species, TEP non-endemic, Circumtropical ( Indian + Pacific + Atlantic Oceans), "Transpacific" (East + Central &/or West Pacific), All Pacific (West + Central + East), East Pacific + Atlantic (East +/or West), Transisthmian (East Pacific + Atlantic of Central America), East Pacific + all Atlantic (East+West)

Regional Endemism: All species, Eastern Pacific non-endemic, Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) non-endemic, Continent + Island (s), Continent, Island (s)

Residency: Resident

Climate Zone: North Temperate (Californian Province &/or Northern Gulf of California), Northern Subtropical (Cortez Province + Sinaloan Gap), Northern Tropical (Mexican Province to Nicaragua + Revillagigedos), Equatorial (Costa Rica to Ecuador + Galapagos, Clipperton, Cocos, Malpelo), South Temperate (Peruvian Province )
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© Shorefishes of the tropical eastern Pacific online information system. www.stri.org/sftep

Source: Shorefishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific Online Information System

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Cosmopolitan in tropical seas (including Red Sea, Seychelles, Mascarenes, Hawaiian Islands).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© FishWise Professional

Source: FishWise Professional

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Circumglobal in tropical and warm temperate seas. Western Atlantic: New York, USA through the Caribbean to central Brazil. Eastern Atlantic: Senegal to Gulf of Guinea; St. Paul's Rocks (Ref. 13121). Indian Ocean: throughout the region, including the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Western Pacific: Japan to Australia and Hawaii. Eastern Pacific: California, USA to Chile. Identified as one of the species with an unfavorable conservation status in Appendix II of the Bonn Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals in 1999. Classified as a highly migratory species, in Annex I of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which called for 'coordinated management and assessment to better understand cumulative impacts of fishing effort on the status of the shared populations' of these sharks (Ref. 26139). Included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since May 2003 which regulates international trade of this species. This can partially implement the original objective of the FAO International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA-Sharks). However, international trade still exists.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Source: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Depth

Depth Range (m): 0 (S) - 240 (S)
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© Shorefishes of the tropical eastern Pacific online information system. www.stri.org/sftep

Source: Shorefishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific Online Information System

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Range

Found throughout the world's oceans in temperate and tropical waters, most commonly in a global band around the equator between 30° to 40° latitude (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.0 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 0; Analspines: 0; Analsoft rays: 0
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Source: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Whale sharks are the largest known species of fish, with the largest specimen on record measuring 20 m in length and weighing 30,8044 kg. On average, members of this species are 7 m in length. Whale sharks have a large rounded mouth and eyes located on the sides of their broad head. They have two dorsal fins, one large and one small, a pair of pelvic fins, and a pair of pectoral fins to help them steer in water. Above their pectoral fins are 3 ridges on each side, one of which extending to their tail. Whale sharks are white on the ventral side, and the dorsal side is pale blue to gray with lighter smaller spots before the pectoral fins and stripes with larger spots extending to their spotted tail. Each shark has a distinct pattern of white spots and stripes and can be identified by humans from photographs by using an astronomy based algorithm. Although they are born without any distinguishing features, once the spots and stripes are present they do not change.

Range mass: 30,8044 (high) g.

Range length: 3 to 20 m.

Average length: 7 m.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Arzoumanian, Z., J. Holmberg, B. Norman. 2005. An astronomical pattern-matching algorithm for computer-aided identification of whale sharks Rhincodone typus. Journal of Applied Ecology, 42: 999-1011.
  • Graham, R., C. Roberts. 2007. Assessing the size, growth rate and structure of a seasonal population of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus Smith 1828) using conventional tagging and photo identification. Fisheries Research, 84: 71-80.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Size

Length max (cm): 2140.0 (S)
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© Shorefishes of the tropical eastern Pacific online information system. www.stri.org/sftep

Source: Shorefishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific Online Information System

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Size

Maximum size: 20 mm TL
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© FishWise Professional

Source: FishWise Professional

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Max. size

2000 cm TL (female); max. published weight: 34,000.0 kg (Ref. 48722); max. reported age: 70 years (Ref. 72468)
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Source: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Diagnostic Description

Description

Primarily pelagic, but may enter atoll lagoons or swim above reef slopes, also found in coastal areas. Highly migratory. Forms schools and often associated with groups of pelagic fishes. Feeds on plankton, pelagic crustaceans, baitfish, squid, and tuna. Possibly to 2100 cm. (Ref. 5578). Temp. range: 21-25°C; salinity 34-34.5 ppt. Can bump boats but are more often assaulted by humans as they bask in the surface. World's largest fish. Edible and utilized dried-salted (Ref. 9987).
  • Anon. (1996). FishBase 96 [CD-ROM]. ICLARM: Los Baños, Philippines. 1 cd-rom pp.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© WoRMS for SMEBD

Source: World Register of Marine Species

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

A huge, blunt-headed shark with a terminal mouth and a prominent checkerboard pattern of light spots, horizontal and vertical stripes on a dark background (Ref. 247, 5578). Caudal fin crescentic, with a strong lower lobe but no subterminal notch (Ref. 13575). It has small, scale-like teeth and feeds by filtering plankton with special sieve-like modifications of the gill bars (Ref. 26938).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Source: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Type Information

Type for Rhincodon typus
Catalog Number: USNM 231756
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Collector(s): C. Stone
Year Collected: 1858
Locality: Gulf of California, Mexico, Pacific
  • Type: Gill, T. N. 1865. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 17: 177.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Habitat Type: Marine

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

nektonic
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© WoRMS for SMEBD

Source: World Register of Marine Species

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Joung et al. (1996) established that whale sharks are ovoviviparous when they reported a female (~10.6 m TL) harpooned off Taiwan (Province of China) containing approximately 300 embryos. These embryos ranged in length from 48?58 cm. One juvenile from this litter, born at 58 cm (TL), attained a length of 143 cm (TL) when raised in an aquarium for 143 days (Leu et al. 1997). Sixteen whale sharks measuring 3.1?6.3 m (TL) have previously been held in captivity at the Okinawa Expo Aquarium, Japan (Uchida et al. 2000). Growth rates of three sharks held from 458?2,056 days ranged from 21.6? 29.5 cm per annum, but may not be comparable to growth rates in the wild. There have been few reports of pregnant females or juvenile whale sharks under 3 m (TL) in the literature (Wolfson 1983). The largest female so far reported is an estimated 20 m, 34 t Whale Shark landed in Taiwan (Province of China) (Chen et al. 1997, 2002), although other sources suggest a 15 m maximum total length (TL).

No long-term studies have produced validated growth rates in the wild, age at maturity, or maximum age for this species, although Pauly (2002) has tentatively suggested a slow growth rate and a 5?6% annual mortality rate for adult R. typus and estimated longevity as 60?>100 years, for a total length of 14 m. Wintner?s (2000) study of vertebral growth rings recorded three mature males with 20, 24 and 27 growth rings at 903, 922 and 945 cm TL respectively, and an immature female with 22 rings and 577 cm TL (calculated from a precaudal length of 445 cm). The presence of scars and abrasions on the claspers of several sharks over 9 m (TL) at Ningaloo Marine Park (Norman 1999) also suggests that sexual activity, at least in males, is not common prior to attaining this length. Wintner (2000) also found that adding a theoretical data point at 100 years and 14 m TL produced a Bertalanffy growth curve with lower standard errors and Linf closer to the reported maximum length than did 60 years and 14 m TL.

The Fishbase (www.fishbase.org) default life history tool for this species is set at a maximum length of 20 m TL and, strangely, Linf of 14 m TL. This yields an estimated age at maturity of nine years at 560 cm TL, a generation time of 21 years and longevity of 59 years. Most of these parameters are clearly too low. Recalculating these data for Linf 20 m TL yields an age at maturity of 21 years at 770 m TL (still low). Generation time becomes an estimated 63 years and longevity almost 150, which seems too high for a warm water species, although recorded for some species of sturgeon Acipenseridae.

Chang et al. (1997) considers that a breeding ground for whale sharks apparently lies close to Taiwan (Province of China). However, the length of gestation, localities of birth, and frequency of reproduction are not yet known for this species and require further study.

Because of their large size, Whale Sharks are probably not subject to extensive predation after reaching maturity. There are only two reports of juvenile whale sharks taken by another animal: a Blue Marlin (A. Goorah pers. comm.) and a Blue Shark (Kukuyev 1996). Several Whale Sharks from Ningaloo Reef possess scars that may be the result of shark attack at an early age (Norman 1999) and two orcas Orcinus orca have been filmed attacking, killing and consuming an 8m whale shark (O?Sullivan and Mitchell 2000).

The Whale Shark is one of only three species of shark that filter feeds, the other two being the Megamouth (Megachasma pelagios) and Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) (Compagno 1984a). Unlike these two, the Whale Shark does not rely on forward motion for filtration, but is able to hang vertically in the water and suction feed by closing its gill slits and opening its mouth (Compagno 1984a). Rhincodon typus is believed to be able to sieve zooplankton as small as 1 mm in diameter through the fine mesh of their gill-rakers (Taylor 1994), typically feeding on a variety of planktonic and nektonic prey, small crustaceans and schooling fishes and even occasionally ingesting small tuna and squid (Last and Stevens 1994, Clark and Nelson 1997, Norman 1999).

Systems
  • Marine
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Depth: 2 - 3000m.
From 2 to 3000 meters.

Habitat: pelagic. World's largest fish. An oceanic and coastal species often seen offshore but coming close inshore, sometimes entering lagoons or coral atolls. Forms schools and often associated with groups of pelagic fishes. Feeds on planktonic and nektonic prey, such as small crustaceans, small fishes, squid, and tuna. Probably ovoviviparous (Ref. 6871). Edible and utilized dried-salted (Ref. 9987). Used in Chinese medicine (Ref. 12166).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© FishWise Professional

Source: FishWise Professional

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Environment

pelagic-oceanic; oceanodromous (Ref. 51243); marine; depth range 0 - 700 m (Ref. 43278), usually 0 - 70 m (Ref. 43278)
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Source: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Whale sharks prefer oceans of water temperatures between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius where upwelling occurs. This species is found at many depths within open ocean and has been found as deep as 2000 to 3000 m near the Galapagos Islands. Whale sharks may also have a small layer of fat, helping them to survive the cold temperatures when they make a deeper dive (Graham 2006).

Range depth: 0 to 2000 to 3000 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: pelagic ; reef

  • Australian Government. 2005. Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) Recovery Plan Issues Paper. Commonwealth of Australia: Department of the Environment and Heritage.
  • Colman, J. 1997. A review of the biology and ecology of the whale shark. Journal of Fish Biology, 51: 1219-1234.
  • Graham, R., C. Roberts, J. Smart. 2006. Diving behaviour of whale sharks in relation to a predictable food pulse. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 3: 109-116.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Depth range based on 96 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 87 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 384
  Temperature range (°C): 10.259 - 27.173
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.483 - 26.232
  Salinity (PPS): 34.060 - 36.017
  Oxygen (ml/l): 2.803 - 4.831
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.106 - 1.551
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.769 - 13.198

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 384

Temperature range (°C): 10.259 - 27.173

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.483 - 26.232

Salinity (PPS): 34.060 - 36.017

Oxygen (ml/l): 2.803 - 4.831

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.106 - 1.551

Silicate (umol/l): 0.769 - 13.198
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Salinity: Marine, Marine Only

Inshore/Offshore: Offshore, In & Offshore, Inshore

Water Column Position: Surface, Near Surface, Mid Water, Water column only

Habitat: Water column

FishBase Habitat: Pelagic
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© Shorefishes of the tropical eastern Pacific online information system. www.stri.org/sftep

Source: Shorefishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific Online Information System

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

The whale shark inhabits shallow coastal areas as well as the open ocean. This species prefers warm water, with surface temperature between 21° to 30° centigrade (5), but can tolerate water temperatures experienced on deep dives (over 1,000 metres) as low as 3° centigrade (7).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Oceanodromous. Migrating within oceans typically between spawning and different feeding areas, as tunas do. Migrations should be cyclical and predictable and cover more than 100 km.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Source: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Found on the continental shelf (Ref. 75154); Dives to depths well into the mesopelagic and bathypelagic zones (1,286 maximum depth) (Ref. 80381). Prefers surface water temperatures between 21-25°C and salinities of 34-35 ppt. Relies on a versatile suction filter-feeding method, which enables it to draw water into the mouth at higher velocities, thereby allowing it to capture larger, more active nektonic prey as well as zooplankton aggregations. Has been observed to feed passively by cruising with mouth agape. It feeds actively at dusk or after dark by opening their mouths and sucking in prey-rich water (Ref. 26319). A carnivore (Ref. 9137).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Partner Web Site: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Food Habits

Whale sharks are one of only three known species of filter feeding sharks. Whale sharks feed by sucking water into their mouth, which also draws in plankton as well as jellyfish, anchovies, fish larvae, and coral. Once in the shark's mouth, the mix is pushed through a filter in the gills so that water leaves but prey remains. If something too large gets caught in its gills, a shark will sometimes cough to help clear the obstruction. Whale sharks have also been observed swimming through large gatherings of zooplankton and can easily decimate an entire school of krill in one pass. While it is currently unknown how much a whale shark eats in a day, they are thought to spend the majority of their day eating. Whale sharks gather along the Ningaloo Reef off of western Australia in March and April and along the Belize Barrier Reef in April and May, which is likely associated with spawning of coral and fish that occurs in these locations around the same time. Whale sharks also gather in New Zealand when the upwelling that occurs off North Island is at its weakest. This upwelling causes an abundance of nutrients for plankton which in turn attract larger animals that eat the plankton.

Animal Foods: fish; cnidarians; zooplankton

Plant Foods: phytoplankton

Foraging Behavior: filter-feeding

Primary Diet: planktivore

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Feeding

Feeding Group: Planktivore

Diet: octopus/squid/cuttlefish, Pelagic crustacea, zooplankton, pelagic fish eggs, bony fishes
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© Shorefishes of the tropical eastern Pacific online information system. www.stri.org/sftep

Source: Shorefishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific Online Information System

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Copepods, specifically Pandarus rhincodonicus, often live on the lips and fins of whale sharks, feeding on bacteria and other micro-organisms found on the skin. Because the mouth of copepods can move back and forth, they can also rid sharks of any irregularities found on the skin. Occasionally whale sharks are hosts to remora.

Mutualist Species:

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Norman, B., D. Newbound, B. Knott. 2000. A new species of Pandaridae (Copepoda), from the whale shark Rhincodon typus (Smith. Journal of Natural History, 34/3: 355-366.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Predation

There are few known predators of whale sharks besides humans. Remnants of young whale sharks, however, have been found in blue sharks, blue marlin and killer whales.

Known Predators:

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Diseases and Parasites

Parasitic Copepod Infestation (general). Parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.)
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Source: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

General Ecology

DMS in the odor landscape of the sea

Dimethyl Sulfide or DMS is present throughout the ocean(1). It’s an important odor component of many fish and shellfish, including clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, crabs and shrimp(2-9). Where does it come from? Usually from the marine plants they feed on.

Many species of plants and algae produce DMS, but not all species produce significant amounts of it. Nearly all of these are marine, and they tend to be in closely related groups with other DMS-producers, including Chlorophyte (green) seaweeds, the Dinophyceae in the dinoflagellates, and some members of the Chrysophyceae and the Bacillariophyceae (two classes of diatoms). Other large groups, like cyanobacteria and freshwater algae, tend not to produce DMS. (10,11)

Why do these groups produce DMS? In algae, most researchers believe a related chemical, DMSP, is used by the algae for osmoregulation- by ensuring the ion concentration inside their cells stays fairly close to the salinity in the seawater outside, they prevent osmotic shock. Otherwise, after a sudden exposure to fresh water (rain at the sea surface, for instance) cells could swell up and explode. In vascular plants, like marsh grasses and sugar cane, it’s not clear what DMS is used for. (12,13)

Freshly harvested shellfish can smell like DMS because DMSP has accumulated in their tissue from the algae in their diet. Some animals, including giant Tridacna clams and the intertidal flatworm Convoluta roscoffensis, harbor symbiotic algae in their tissues, which produce DMSP; this may not be important to their symbioses, but for Tridacna, the high DMS levels can be a problem for marketing the clams to human consumers. After death, DMSP begins to break down into DMS. A little DMS creates a pleasant flavor, but high concentrations offend the human palate.(2,14)

Not all grazers retain DMS in their tissues, though. At sea, DMS is released when zooplankton feed on algae. It’s been shown in the marine copepods Labidocera aestiva and Centropages hamatus feeding on the dinoflagellate Gymnodinium nelson that nearly all the DMS in the consumed algae is quickly released during feeding and digestion.(15) This has a disadvantage for the grazing zooplankton. Marine predators, like procellariiform seabirds, harbor seals, penguins, whale sharks, cod, and coral reef fishes like brown chromis, Creole wrasse and boga, can use the smell of DMS to locate zooplankton to feed on. (8,16,17)

It’s not easy to measure how much DMS is released from the Ocean into the air every year. Recent estimates suggest 13-37 Teragrams, or 1.3-3.7 billion kilograms. This accounts for about half the natural transport of Sulfur into the atmosphere, is the conveyor belt by which Sulfur cycles from the ocean back to land. In the atmosphere, DMS is oxidized into several compounds that serve as Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCN). The presence of CCN in the air determines when and where clouds form, which affects not only the Water cycle, but the reflection of sunlight away from the Earth. This is why climate scientists believe DMS plays an important role in regulating the Earth’s climate. (12,18)

  • 1) BATES, T. S., J. D. Cline, R. H. Gammon, and S. R. Kelly-Hansen. 1987. Regional and seasonal variations in the flux of oceanic dimethylsulfide to the atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res.92: 2930- 2938
  • 2) Hill, RW, Dacey, JW and A Edward. 2000. Dimethylsulfoniopropionate in giant clams (Tridacnidae). The Biological Bulletin, 199(2):108-115
  • 3) Brooke, R.O., Mendelsohn, J.M., King, F.J. 1968. Significance of Dimethyl Sulfide to the Odor of Soft-Shell Clams. Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada, 25:(11) 2453-2460
  • 4) Linder, M., Ackman, R.G. 2002. Volatile Compounds Recovered by Solid-Phase Microextraction from Fresh Adductor Muscle and Total Lipids of Sea Scallop (Placopecten magellanicus) from Georges Bank (Nova Scotia). Journal of Food Science, 67(6): 2032–2037
  • 5) Le Guen, S., Prost, C., Demaimay, M. 2000. Critical Comparison of Three Olfactometric Methods for the Identification of the Most Potent Odorants in Cooked Mussels (Mytilus edulis). J. Agric. Food Chem., 48(4): 1307–1314
  • 6) Piveteau, F., Le Guen, S., Gandemer, G., Baud, J.P., Prost, C., Demaimay, M. 2000. Aroma of Fresh Oysters Crassostrea gigas: Composition and Aroma Notes. J. Agric. Food Chem., 48(10): 4851–4857
  • 7) Tanchotikul, U., Hsieh, T.C.Y. 2006. Analysis of Volatile Flavor Components in Steamed Rangia Clam by Dynamic Headspace Sampling and Simultaneous Distillation and Extraction. Journal of Food Science, 56(2): 327–331
  • 8) Ellingsen, O.F., Doving, K.B. 1986. Chemical fractionation of shrimp extracts inducing bottom food search behavior in cod (Gadus morhua L.). J. Chem. Ecol., 12(1): 155-168
  • 9) Sarnoski, P.J., O’Keefe, S.F., Jahncke, M.L., Mallikarjunan, P., Flick, G. 2010. Analysis of crab meat volatiles as possible spoilage indicators for blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) meat by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. Food Chemistry, 122(3):930–935
  • 10) Malin, G., Kirst, G.O. 1997. Algal Production of Dimethyl Sulfide and its Atmospheric Role. J. Phycol., 33:889-896
  • 11) Keller, M.D., Bellows, W.K., Guillard, R.L. 1989. Dimethyl Sulfide Production in Marine Phytoplankton. Biogenic Sulfur in the Environment. Chapter 11, pp 167–182. ACS Symposium Series, Vol. 393. ISBN13: 9780841216129eISBN: 9780841212442.
  • 12) Yoch, D.C. 2002. Dimethylsulfoniopropionate: Its Sources, Role in the Marine Food Web, and Biological Degradation to Dimethylsulfide. Appl Environ Microbiol., 68(12):5804–5815.
  • 13) Otte ML, Wilson G, Morris JT, Moran BM. 2004. Dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) and related compounds in higher plants. J Exp Bot., 55(404):1919-25
  • 14) Van Bergeijk, S.A., Stal, L.J. 2001. Dimethylsulfonopropionate and dimethylsulfide in the marine flatworm Convoluta roscoffensis and its algal symbiont. Marine Biology, 138:209-216
  • 15) Dacey , J.W.H. and Stuart G. Wakeham. 1986. Oceanic Dimethylsulfide: Production during Zooplankton Grazing on Phytoplankton. Science, 233( 4770):1314-1316
  • 16) Nevitt, G. A., Veit, R. R. & Kareiva, P. (1995) Dimethyl Sulphide as a Foraging Cue for Antarctic Procellariiform Seabirds. Nature 376, 680-682.
  • 17) Debose, J.L., Lema, S.C., & Nevitt, G.A. (2008). Dimethylsulfionoproprianate as a foraging cue for reef fishes. Science, 319, 1356.
  • 18) Charlson, R.J., Lovelock, J.E., Andraea, M.O., Warren, S.G. 1987. Oceanic phytoplankton, atmospheric sulphur, cloud albedo and climate. Nature, 326:655-661
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

Supplier: Jennifer Hammock

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

It is thought that whale shark depend on their eyesight to recognize markings on other sharks. Their senses are likely similar to those of nurse sharks, which can "smell" chemicals in the water. Because they dive upon the approach of motorized boats and have large inner ears, whale sharks may also be able to detect low-frequency sounds.

Communication Channels: visual

Perception Channels: visual ; vibrations ; chemical

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are often thought to be solitary behemoths that live and feed in the open ocean. Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution and colleagues, however, have found that this is not necessarily the case, finding that whale sharks can be gregarious and amass in the hundreds to feed in coastal waters.

Public Domain

Supplier: Katja Schulz

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Cycle

Distinct pairing with embrace (Ref. 205). Ovoviviparous (Ref. 35465). Embryos feed solely on yolk (Ref. 50449). Late term embryos shed their egg case within the uterus at a size of 58 to 64 cm TL (ovovivipary). The smallest free-living species are from 55-56 cm long, the smallest of which had an umbilical scar. A pregnant female has recently been found with 300 embryos, the largest of which were 58-64 cm (Refs. 26346, 35678).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Source: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Development

Growth of the vertebral rings in whale sharks is rapid during the first few years of life, and growth has slowed by 20 years of age. Information regarding the growth and development of whale sharks is largely unknown. Data gathered regarding growth in captivity is considered unrepresentative of growth in the wild, as space requirements for optimum growth are unknown.

  • Norman, B., J. Stevens. 2007. Size and maturity status of the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. Fisheries Research, 84: 81-86.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

It is estimated that whale sharks may live at least 100 years in the wild. It has been suggested that the number of growth rings on a whale shark's vertebrae may be an indicator of age. In captivity, whale sharks have lived anywhere from a handful of days to 8 years or longer.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
100 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
70 years.

  • Stevens, J. 2007. Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) biology and ecology: A review of the primary literature. Fisheries Research, 84: 4-9.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 54 years (wild) Observations: Not much is known about the life history of these animals, the world's largest fish. One study estimated annual survival at 0.825. Age at maturity probably occurs at 13 to 25 years. Maximum longevity is unknown with estimates ranging from 54 years to over 100 years (Bradshaw et al. 2007).
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

Source: AnAge

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

Little information is available regarding the mating systems of whale sharks. Like many other species of sharks, whale sharks have two reproductive extensions called claspers between two pelvic fins. These claspers assist with holding onto the female and transferring sperm successfully. In a study by Schmidt et al. (2010), 29 of 304 embryos from a harpooned female whale shark were retained for DNA analysis to determine paternity. From this 10% litter sample, Schmidt et al. concluded all 304 embroys had the same father. Embryos from this shark were also at varying developmental stages, suggesting that whale sharks may be capable of delayed fertilization.

Whale sharks are ovoviviparous, though little information is otherwise known regarding reproduction of whale sharks. Males are thought to reach sexual maturity when 30 years of age and at least 9 meters in length. Age of sexual maturity in females is unknown. In 1995, a female whale shark harpooned in Taiwan was found carrying 304 embryos. Only 15 of these were alive when their mother was recovered, and only one survived for 143 days in captivity.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 30 (high) years.

Key Reproductive Features: sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); ovoviviparous ; delayed fertilization

Currently very little is known about parental involvement of whale sharks. Reports of adults swimming with some younger whale sharks may suggest some measure of parental investment. It is also possible that younger whale sharks remain near adults for protection.

  • Colman, J. 1997. A review of the biology and ecology of the whale shark. Journal of Fish Biology, 51: 1219-1234.
  • Martin, R. 2007. A review of behavioural ecology of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus). Fisheries Research, 84/1: 10-16.
  • Norman, B., J. Stevens. 2007. Size and maturity status of the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. Fisheries Research, 84: 81-86.
  • Schmidt, J., C. Chen, S. Sheikh, M. Meekan, B. Norman, S. Joung. 2010. Paternity analysis in a litter of whale shark embryos. Endangered Species Research, 12: 117-124.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 1 person

Average rating: 4.0 of 5

Egg Type: Live birth, No pelagic larva
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© Shorefishes of the tropical eastern Pacific online information system. www.stri.org/sftep

Source: Shorefishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific Online Information System

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Rhincodon typus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 14 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

CCTTTATTTAATCTTTGGTGCATGAGCAGGAATAGTAGGTCTAGCTCTCAGTCTTCTAATTCGAGCTGAACTAAGCCAACCTGGATCTCTTTTAGGAGATGATCAGATTTATAATGTGATCGTAACAGCTCATGCCTTTGTAATAATCTTCTTTATAGTTATACCAGTAATAATTGGTGGGTTTGGAAACTGACTAGTGCCCTTAATAATTGGTGCACCTGATATAGCCTTCCCACGAATAAATAACATAAGCTTTTGATTACTTCCACCTTCATTCTTATTACTATTAGCTTCTGCAGGAGTAGAAGCTGGGGCAGGAACAGGCTGAACTGTTTATCCACCATTAGCAGGCAATCTAGCCCACGCGGGAGCATCAGTTGATCTAACTATTTTCTCCTTACATCTAGCAGGAATTTCATCAATTTTAGCCTCCATTAACTTCATCACAACTATTATTAATATAAAACCACCAGCTATCTCTCAATACCAAACACCACTATTCGTCTGATCTATTCTTGTAACTACCATTCTACTACTACTTTCATTACCAGTACTAGCAGCAGGAATTACAATATTACTTACAGACCGAAATCTTAACACAACATTTTTCGATCCGGCAGGAGGTGGAGATCCTATCTTGTATCAACATTTA
-- end --

Download FASTA File
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Rhincodon typus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 14
Specimens with Barcodes: 19
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A2bd+3d

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2005

Assessor/s
Norman, B.

Reviewer/s
Musick, J.A. & Fowler, S.L. (Shark Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
This assessment is based on the information published in the 2005 shark status survey (Fowler et al. 2005).

The Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) is a cosmopolitan tropical and warm temperate species and is the world?s largest living chondrichthyan. Its life history is poorly understood, but it is known to be highly fecund and to migrate extremely large distances. Populations appear to have been depleted by harpoon fisheries in Southeast Asia and perhaps incidental capture in other fisheries. High value in international trade, a K-selected life history, highly migratory nature and normally low abundance make this species vulnerable to commercial fishing. Dive tourism involving this species has recently developed in a number of locations around the world, demonstrating that it is far more valuable alive than fished.

History
  • 2000
    Vulnerable
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
  • 1994
    Indeterminate
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Indeterminate
    (IUCN 1990)
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Because population data are currently unknown, it is difficult for agencies to determine whether whale sharks are at risk. The IUCN Red List considers whale sharks vulnerable and their populations to be decreasing. Whale sharks are also listed in Appendix II by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), meaning whale sharks potentially will need protection in the future. Fishing bans in many countries have been instated to help conserve this species. Efforts are also being made to educate fisherman, demonstrating that whale sharks are more valuable alive due to ecotourism and less valuable as a food source because of their slow rates of reproduction. Despite these efforts, poaching also still occurs, and many catches are simply not being reported. Other factors contributing to their conservation status include increased boat traffic (due to the sound and potential for being struck), damage to coral reefs, pollution, and global climate change.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

  • Chen, V., M. Phipps. 2002. Management and Trade of Whale Sharks in Taiwan. East Asia-Taipei: TRAFFIC East Asia-Taipei.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

IUCN Red List: Listed, Vulnerable

CITES: Listed, Appendix II
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© Shorefishes of the tropical eastern Pacific online information system. www.stri.org/sftep

Source: Shorefishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific Online Information System

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1). Listed on Appendix II of CITES (3), and listed on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (4).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Population

Population Trend
Decreasing
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Threats

Major Threats
Small-scale harpoon and entanglement fisheries have taken place in various regions of the world, including India (whale shark fishing banned in 2001), Pakistan, Taiwan (Province of China), the Philippines (banned in 1998) and the Maldives (prior to protection in 1995). These took Whale Sharks primarily for their meat, liver oil, and/or fins (Compagno 1984a, Ramachandran and Sankar 1990, Trono 1996, Hanfee 2001, Alava et al. 2002). Liver oil was traditionally used for water-proofing boat hulls. The huge fins are low quality but of high value as restaurant "signboards" in east Asia, and the soft meat (known as "tofu shark") is in great demand in Taiwan (Province of China).

Fishermen in the Maldives used to take 20-30 Whale Sharks per year for their oil, but reported declining catches during the 1980s to early 1990s (Fowler 2000). In a study in the Philippines, it was found that in 1997 there was a 29% decline in the whale shark catch at two of the primary sites, despite an increase in effort due to rising prices for exported products (Alava et al. 2002). The increased fishing effort and falling catches led to the 1998 fishery ban, although illegal fishing and attempted export of meat still continues on a small scale, with shipments having been impounded by customs authorities (Anon 2002b).

In Pakistan, the flesh was traditionally eaten either fresh or salted, and liver oil used for treating boats (Compagno 1984a). The number of sharks taken each year was small and often accidental bycatch (Silas 1986, Seshagiri Rao 1992). Recent landings are unknown.

A traditional small-scale seasonal harpoon fishery in India took whale sharks for their liver oil (Prater 1941, Rao 1986, Silas 1986, Vivekanandan and Zala 1994). About 40 were harpooned during April 1982 (Silas 1986), but demand for "tofu shark" meat in Taiwan (Province of China) led to increased fishing effort in Gujarat during the 1990s (Hanfee 2001). Prices rose significantly after 1997, with 279 Whale Sharks taken in January?May 1999. One hundred and forty-five sharks were taken offshore (10-15 km) in December 1999, and 160 in coastal waters in January?May 2000. The fishery closed in May 2001, when the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests legally protected whale sharks in territorial waters.

Whale Sharks have been targeted for many decades in Taiwan (Province of China), but catches appear to have declined since the 1980s (Chen et al. 1996, Joung et al. 1996). Billfish harpooners from Hengchun Harbour, fishing south of Penghu, reportedly landed 50-60 Whale Sharks each spring in the mid-1980s, but annual landings at this location subsequently declined to about 10 sharks, and fewer still in 1994 and 1995. In 1995, landings throughout Taiwan (Province of China) were approximately 250-272, around 158 taken as bycatch in set nets, 114 by harpoon (Chen et al. 1996). The government introduced a Whale Shark reporting system in 2001. This and other sources indicate that the total number of Whale Sharks caught during 2001 was 89 (38 by set nets, 36 in the billfish harpoon fishery and 15 by other methods), and that 94 sharks weighing about 104 t in total were landed during the 12 months from March 2001 to March 2002 (Anon 2002b, Chen and Phipps 2002). The domestic catch has apparently declined by 60-70% since surveyed by Chen et al. (1996). Chen and Phipps (2002) note that the sum of the reported catch and imports is smaller than the quantity of Whale Shark meat on the domestic market, indicating that official data under-represent imports.

Wholesale Whale Shark meat prices in Chinese Taipei peaked at US$7.00/kg in the late 1990s (Liu et al. 2002) when a 10 t shark was worth approximately US$70,000, subsequently falling to US$2.00/kg in 2001 (Chen and Phipps 2002).

Although Ramachandran and Sankar (1990) considered that R. typus was an underexploited species, there are now concerns that Whale Shark populations are decreasing in many locations as a result of stock depletion by unregulated fisheries (Anon 2002b). Ecotourism industries based on viewing Whale Sharks are now developing in several locations, including Mexico, Australia, Philippines, south-eastern Africa, Seychelles, Maldives, Belize and Honduras (Norman 1999, Anon 2002b, Newman et al. 2002). The number of people swimming with Whale Sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, during the short whale shark season from March to June, increased from 1,000 in 1993 to almost 5,000 in 2002 (Colman pers. obs. 1997). This well-managed industry contributes significantly to the national and regional economy (overseas participants make up 65-75% of participating tourists).

Ecotourism has taken over from hunting as a significant source of income for Maldivian operators, since the small fishery that once existed ceased after legislation was introduced in 1995 to protect whale sharks (C. Anderson pers. comm.). Similarly, the development of an important whale shark ecotourism industry in areas of the Philippines that experience large seasonal aggregations of whale sharks is now underway (Anon 2002b).

In the Seychelles, 162 tourists/week interacted with R. typus in November 1996 and the industry could be worth US$3?5 million annually there (Newman et al. 2002). Revenues are also significant in several other range states, indeed rather higher than revenues from fisheries for this species (Anon 2002b). To ensure that high levels of tourism do not have an adverse effect on the behaviour of Whale Sharks at these locations and other aggregation sites identified in future, monitoring must continue as a priority.

In Tanzania Whale Shark sightings are apparently on the increase. Surprisingly, fishermen do not actively hunt whale sharks and do not consume the meat; nor do they recognise that the fins may have any value. Four individuals caught in March 2001 were not consumed nor were their fins sold. A very small amount of meat was taken, possibly for medicinal purposes (S. Yahya and N. Jiddawi pers. comm.). They are avoided by net fishermen because of potential damage to the nets. Whale sharks have been sighted for the last few years during the inter-monsoonal period of March-June off Zanzibar. They are caught in purse, drift and gillnet fisheries.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Vulnerable (VU) (A2bd+3d)
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Source: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Whale sharks have been fished throughout their range, and their flesh is highly valued in some Asian markets. The recent increase in the demand for shark-fin soup threatens this species; in 1999, a large whale shark fin sold for around £11,000 (9). Although little is known about the ecology of this species, it is likely to be long-lived with a slow reproduction rate, making populations particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Where these shy creatures regularly come close to shore, they have become important tourist attractions, but the impact of shark-watching tours is at present poorly understood (5).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Whale Sharks are legally protected in Australian Commonwealth waters and the states of Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia (regulations control human interactions in the latter state), the Maldives, Philippines, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Honduras, Mexico, US Atlantic waters and a small area off Belize (Fowler 2000, Anon. 2002b). Full legal protection is under consideration in South Africa and Taiwan (POC) has recently introduced an annual quota for its fishery. In 1999 the whale shark was listed on Appendix II of the Bonn Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). This identifies it as a species whose conservation status would benefit from the implementation of international cooperative Agreements (Fowler 2000). A US proposal to add the Whale Shark to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was rejected by the 11th Conference of Parties in 2000, but a revised proposal, submitted by Philippines and India, was accepted by the 12th Conference in 2002 and came into force at the end February 2003. This requires fishing states to demonstrate that any exports were derived from a sustainably managed population and to enable exports and imports to be monitored.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

The catching of whale sharks is now prohibited in the Philippines and international conservation and management plans are encouraged by its listing on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) (4). In an historic move in 2002, the whale shark was included on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3). These awesome creatures are now an important part of the tourism industry in Thailand, South Africa, Seychelles, Mozambique, Honduras and the Maldives (10). They make annual visits to the northwest coast of Australia, where they are found within the Ningaloo Marine Park and provide a massive tourist attraction. The Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) has produced strict guidelines and protection measures in order to minimise the impact of shark-watching tours, and research projects in the area hope to understand these mysterious giants further (8).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

fisheries: commercial
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© FishBase

Source: FishBase

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Occasionally whale sharks damage fishing equipment when entangled.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Use of whale sharks is common in eastern countries. In Taiwan, they are a popular source of food, though very expensive. Their flesh is high in water content and has a texture similar to tofu. As of 1997, only two fisheries in Taiwan harvested around 100 sharks each year. In India, when whale sharks are caught by fisheries, they are sometimes used as a source of food. Additionally, their liver contains oil used for waterproofing, shoe polish and to treat some skin diseases. Occasionally whale sharks are accidentally caught in fishing equipment and are sold to aquaria around the world. Whale sharks are currently banned from commercial fishing in Belize, Honduras, Maldives, Philippines, Thailand, India, Mexico, the United States, and Australia.

Whale sharks are also a source of ecotourism in areas like Australia and Belize. In Australia's Ningaloo Reef, the best time to scuba dive with the whale shark is between March and May. To avoid crowding a shark, some boat operators will only allow a small number of people in the water at a time. In Belize the best time to dive with whale sharks is between March and June. Because there are few regulations associated with whale shark ecotourism, as many as 80 divers will crowd a single shark.

Positive Impacts: food ; ecotourism ; source of medicine or drug

  • Davis, D., S. Banks, A. Birtles, P. Valentine, M. Cuthill. 1997. Whale sharks in Ningaloo Marine Park: managing tourism in an Australian marine protected area. Tourism Management, 18/5: 259-271.
  • Quiros, A. 2005. Whale shark "ecotourism" in the Philippines and Belize: evaluating conservation and community benefits. Trouble Resources Bulleting, 24: 42-48.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Whale shark

The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a slow-moving filter feeding shark and the largest known extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 12.65 m (41.50 ft) and a weight of more than 21.5 metric tons (47,000 lb), and unconfirmed reports of considerably larger whale sharks exist. Claims of individuals over 14 m (46 ft) long and weighing at least 30 mt (66,000 lb) are not uncommon. The whale shark holds many records for sheer size in the animal kingdom, most notably being by far the largest living nonmammalian vertebrate, rivalling many of the largest dinosaurs in weight. It is the sole member of the genus Rhincodon and the family, Rhincodontidae (called Rhiniodon and Rhinodontidae before 1984), which belongs to the subclass Elasmobranchii in the class Chondrichthyes. The species originated about 60 million years ago.

The whale shark is found in tropical and warm oceans and lives in the open sea, with a lifespan of about 70 years.[3] Whale sharks have very large mouths, and as filter feeders, they feed mainly on plankton. The BBC program Planet Earth filmed a whale shark feeding on a school of small fish. The same documentary showed footage of a whale shark timing its arrival to coincide with the mass spawning of fish shoals and feeding on the resultant clouds of eggs and sperm.[1]

The species was distinguished in April 1828 after the harpooning of a 4.6-m-long specimen in Table Bay, South Africa. Andrew Smith, a military doctor associated with British troops stationed in Cape Town, described it the following year.[4] The name "whale shark" comes from the fish's size, being as large as some species of whales[5] and also a filter feeder like baleen whales.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The whale shark inhabits all tropical and warm-temperate seas. The fish is primarily pelagic, living in the open sea but not in the greater depths of the ocean. Seasonal feeding aggregations occur at several coastal sites such as the southern and eastern parts of South Africa; Saint Helena Island in the South Atlantic Ocean; Gulf of Tadjoura in Djibouti, Gladden Spit in Belize; Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia; Great Rann of Kutch in India; Útila in Honduras; Southern Leyte; Donsol, Pasacao and Batangas in the Philippines; off Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox in Yucatan, Mexico; Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia; Nabire National Park in Indonesia; Nosy Be in Madagascar Off Tofo Reef near Inhambane in Mozambique; the Tanzanian islands of Mafia, Pemba, Zanzibar; the Dimaniyat Islands in the Gulf of Oman and Al Hallaniyat islands in the Arabian Sea; and, very rarely, Eilat, Israel and Aqaba, Jordan. Although typically seen offshore, it has been found closer to land, entering lagoons or coral atolls, and near the mouths of estuaries and rivers. Its range is generally restricted to about 30° latitude. It is capable of diving to depths of at least 1,286 m (4,219 ft),[6] and is migratory.[3] On 7 February 2012, a large whale shark was found floating 150 kilometres (93 mi) off the coast of Karachi, Pakistan. The length of the specimen was said to be between 11 and 12 m (36 and 39 ft), with a weight of around 15,000 kg (33,000 lb).[7]

In 2011, more than 400 whale sharks gathered off the Yucatan Coast. It was one of the largest gatherings of whale sharks recorded.[8]

Gulf of Tadjoura in Djibouti where whale sharks congregate between the months of October and March has become a popular destination for swimming with the gentle giants of the sea.

Description[edit]

25ft-long whale Shark filtering plankton, in Maldives

Whale sharks have a mouth that can be 1.5 m (4.9 ft) wide, containing 300 to 350 rows of tiny teeth and 10 filter pads which it uses to filter feed.[9] Whale sharks have five large pairs of gills. The head is wide and flat with two small eyes at the front. Whale sharks are grey with a white belly. Their skin is marked with pale yellow spots and stripes which are unique to each individual. The whale shark has three prominent ridges along its sides. Its skin can be up to 10 cm (3.9 in) thick. The shark has a pair of dorsal fins and pectoral fins. Juveniles' tails have a larger upper fin than lower fin, while the adult tail becomes semilunate. The whale shark's spiracles are just behind its eyes.

Photograph of captive whale shark in aquarium
Whale shark in main tank at Osaka Aquarium

The whale shark is the largest noncetacean animal in the world. The average size of adult whale sharks is estimated at 9.7 m (31.82 ft) and 9 t (20,000 lb).[10] The largest verified specimen was caught on 11 November 1947, near Baba Island, in Karachi, Pakistan. It was 12.65 m (41.50 ft) long, weighed more than 21.5 t (47,000 lb), and had a girth of 7 m (23.0 ft).[10] Stories exist of vastly larger specimens – quoted lengths of 18 m (59 ft) and 45.5 t (100,000 lb) are not uncommon in the popular literature, but no scientific records support their existence. In 1868, the Irish natural scientist Edward Perceval Wright obtained several small whale shark specimens in the Seychelles, but claimed to have observed specimens in excess of 15 m (49.2 ft), and tells of shark specimens surpassing 21 m (68.9 ft).

In a 1925 publication, Hugh M. Smith described a huge animal caught in a bamboo fish trap in Thailand in 1919. The shark was too heavy to pull ashore, but Smith estimated the shark was at least 17 m long, and weighed around 37 t. These measurements have been exaggerated to 43 t and a more precise 17.98 m in recent years. A shark caught in 1994 off Tainan County, southern Taiwan, reportedly weighed 35.8 t (79,000 lb).[11] There have even been claims of whale sharks of up to 23 metres (75 ft) and 100 tonnes (220,000 lb). In 1934, a ship named the Maurguani came across a whale shark in the southern Pacific Ocean, rammed it, and the shark became stuck on the prow of the ship, supposedly with 4.6 m on one side and 12.2 m on the other.[12] No reliable documentation exists for these claims and they remain "fish stories".

Diet[edit]

The whale shark is a filter feeder – one of only three known filter feeding shark species (along with the basking shark and the megamouth shark). It feeds on macroalgae, plankton, krill, Christmas Island red crab larvae [13] and small nektonic life, such as small squid or vertebrates. It also feeds on small fish and the clouds of eggs and sperm during mass spawning of fish.[1] The many rows of vestigial teeth play no role in feeding. Feeding occurs either by ram filtration, in which the animal opens its mouth and swims forward, pushing water and food into the mouth, or by active suction feeding, in which the animal opens and closes its mouth, sucking in volumes of water that are then expelled through the gills. In both cases, the filter pads serve to separate food from water. These unique, black sieve-like structures are presumed to be modified gill rakers. Food separation in whale sharks is by cross-flow filtration, in which the water travels nearly parallel to the filter pad surface, not perpendicularly through it, before passing to the outside, while denser food particles continue to the back of the throat.[14] This is an extremely efficient filtration method that minimises fouling of the filter pad surface. Whale sharks have been observed "coughing", presumably to clear a build-up of particles from the filter pads. Whale sharks migrate to feed and possibly to breed.[3][15][16]

The whale shark is an active feeder, targeting concentrations of plankton or fish. It is able to ram filter feed or can gulp in a stationary position. This is in contrast to the passive feeding basking shark, which does not pump water. Instead, it swims to force water across its gills.[3][15]

Behavior toward divers[edit]

Underwater photograph of left side whale shark from behind showing many spots, faint stripes, and an extended triangular pectoral fin
A whale shark at Ningaloo Reef

Despite its size, the whale shark does not pose significant danger to humans. Whale sharks are docile fish and sometimes allow swimmers to catch a ride,[17] although this practice is discouraged by shark scientists and conservationists.[who?][why?] Younger whale sharks are gentle and can play with divers. Underwater photographers such as Fiona Ayerst have photographed them swimming uncomfortably close to humans without any danger.[18][19]

The shark is seen by divers in many places, including the Bay Islands in Honduras, Thailand, the Philippines, the Maldives, the Red Sea, Western Australia (Ningaloo Reef, Christmas Island), Taiwan, Panama (Coiba Island), Belize, Tofo Beach in Mozambique, Sodwana Bay (Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park) in South Africa,[20] the Galapagos Islands, Isla Mujeres and Bahía de los Ángeles in Mexico, the Seychelles, West Malaysia, islands off eastern peninsular Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Oman, Fujairah, and Puerto Rico.[17]

In captivity[edit]

Aquarium photograph of whale shark in profile with human-shaped shadows in foreground
A whale shark in the Georgia Aquarium

Two whale sharks were featured as the main attraction of Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and as of 2005, three whale sharks were in captivity at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan. The Ioworld Aquarium in Kagoshima, Japan, also features a single adult whale shark as a major attraction. One was also on display in the Taiwan, Kenting National Museum of Biology and Aquarium and 5 are on display at the Yantai Aquarium in China. Four whale sharks, two males,Taroko and Yushan,[21] and two females, Alice and Trixie, live in the Georgia Aquarium, in Atlanta, USA. Two male whale sharks, Ralph and Norton, died in captivity at the Georgia Aquarium on 11 January 2007, and 13 June 2007, respectively. The two females were added on 3 June 2006 and two more males in 2007. All six whale sharks were imported from Taiwan, where whale sharks are called tofu sharks because of the taste and texture of the flesh; the fishery from which they came has since closed. Two whale sharks live at Polar Ocean World in Qingdao, China. One whale shark was at the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai, but was released in March 2010.[22]

Reproduction[edit]

Neither mating nor pupping of whale sharks has been observed.

The capture of a female in July 1996 that was pregnant with 300 pups indicated whale sharks are ovoviviparous.[3][23][24] The eggs remain in the body and the females give birth to live young which are 40 to 60 cm (16 to 24 in) long. Evidence indicates the pups are not all born at once, but rather the female retains sperm from one mating and produces a steady stream of pups over a prolonged period.[25] They reach sexual maturity at around 30 years and their lifespan is an estimated 70[3] to 100 years.[26]

On 7 March 2009, marine scientists in the Philippines discovered what is believed to be the smallest living specimen of the whale shark. The young shark, measuring only 38 cm (15 in), was found with its tail tied to a stake at a beach in Pilar, Philippines, and was released into the wild. Based on this discovery, some scientists no longer believe this area is just a feeding ground; this site may be a birthing ground, as well. Both young whale sharks and pregnant females have been seen in the waters of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, where numerous whale sharks can be spotted during the summer.[27][28]

Conservation status[edit]

A whale shark depicted on the 100 Philippine peso banknote

The whale shark is targeted by commercial fisheries in several areas where they seasonally aggregate. The population is unknown and the species is considered vulnerable by the IUCN.[2] It is listed, along with six other species of sharks, under the CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks.[29] In 1998, the Philippines banned all fishing, selling, importing, and exporting of whale sharks for commercial purposes,[30] followed by India in May 2001,[31] and Taiwan in May 2007.[32] They are currently listed as a vulnerable species, but continue to be hunted in parts of Asia, such as Taiwan and the Philippines.

In 2006, Resorts World Sentosa announced its plans to bring in whale sharks for their marine life park. This was met with opposition from seven notable conservation societies. In 2009, the plan was shelved in favour of a search for other alternatives.[33][34]

In 2010, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill resulted in 4,900,000 barrels (780,000 m3) of oil flowing into an area south of the Mississippi River Delta, where one-third of all whale shark sightings in the northern part of the gulf have occurred in recent years. Sightings confirmed that the whale sharks were unable to avoid the oil slick, which was situated on the surface of the sea where the whale sharks feed for several hours at a time. No dead whale sharks were found.[35]

Human culture[edit]

Snorkelling with whale shark near Isla Mujeres (Mexico) 30 August 2011

Known as a deity in a Vietnamese culture, the whale shark is called Ca Ong, which literally translates as "Sir Fish".[36]

In the Philippines, it is called butanding and balilan.[37] The whale shark is featured on the reverse of the Philippine 100-peso bill.

See also[edit]

For a topical guide to this subject, see Outline of sharks.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Jurassic Shark (2000) documentary by Jacinth O'Donnell; broadcast on Discovery Channel, 5 August 2006
  2. ^ a b Norman, B. (2005). "Rhincodon typus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 18 August 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Ed. Froese, Ranier and Pauly, Daniel. "Rhincodon typus". FishBase. Retrieved 17 September 2006. 
  4. ^ Martin, R. Aidan. "Rhincodon or Rhiniodon? A Whale Shark by any Other Name". ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research. 
  5. ^ Brunnschweiler, J.M. "Deep-diving behaviour of a whale shark Rhincodon typus during long-distance movement in the western Indian Ocean". doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2008.02155.x. 
  6. ^ Brunnschweiler, Juerg M.; Baensch, H.; Pierce, S.J.; Sims, D.W. (February 2009). Journal of Fish Biology 74 (3): 706–714. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2008.02155.x. 
  7. ^ Hasan, Saad. "Experts to cut up 40.1-foot long whale shark today – The Express Tribune". Tribune.com.pk. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  8. ^ de la Parra, Rafael; et al. (29 April 2011). "An Unprecedented Aggregation of Whale Sharks, Rhincodon typus, in Mexican Coastal Waters of the Caribbean Sea". PLoS ONE. 4 6: e18994. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018994. 
  9. ^ Compagno, L.J.V. "Species Fact Sheet, Rhincodon typus". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved 19 September 2006. 
  10. ^ a b Wood, Gerald (1983). The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-85112-235-9. 
  11. ^ Mollet, H.F. 2008. "Summary of Large Whale Shark Rhincodon typus Smith, 1828". Archived from the original on 2012-03-12. . Home Page of Henry F. Mollet, Research Affiliate, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.
  12. ^ Maniguet, Xavier (1992). The Jaws of Death: Shark as Predator, Man as Prey. HarperCollins Publishers Limited. ISBN 978-0-00-219960-5. 
  13. ^ Morelle, Rebecca (17 November 2008). "Shark-cam captures ocean motion". BBC News. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  14. ^ Motta, Philip J.; et al. (2010). "Feeding anatomy, filter-feeding rate, and diet of whale sharks Rhincodon typus during surface ram filter feeding off the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico". Zoology 113: 199–212. doi:10.1016/j.zool.2009.12.001. 
  15. ^ a b Martin, R. Aidan. "Elasmo Research". ReefQuest. Retrieved 17 September 2006. 
  16. ^ "Whale shark". Icthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 17 September 2006. 
  17. ^ a b Compagno, Leonard J. V. (26 April 2002). Sharks of the World: An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Shark Species Known to Date: Bullhead, Mackerel and Carpet Sharks 2. Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). ISBN 978-92-5-104543-5. Retrieved 20 September 2009. 
  18. ^ MAIL FOREIGN SERVICE, 1 July 2009, The Daily Mail, He's behind you! Diver's close encounter with enormous shark"...picture was taken by Miss Bester's friend Fiona Ayerst off the coast of Durban in South Africa..."
  19. ^ Aug. 04, 2009, Time magazine, [1], Retrieved Aug. 15, 2014, "...A 40-foot whale shark and a brave snorkler swim off the South African coast. ..."
  20. ^ Aug. 04, 2009, Time magazine, [2], Retrieved Aug. 15, 2014, "...A 40-foot whale shark and a brave snorkler swim off the South African coast. ..."
  21. ^ "Aquarium gains two new whale sharks". CNN. 1 June 2007. Archived from the original on 3 June 2007. Retrieved 1 June 2007. 
  22. ^ "Dubai hotel releases whale shark back into wild". Associated Press (AP). 18 March 2009. Archived from the original on 2010-03-22. 
  23. ^ Joung, Shoou-Jeng et al. (July 1996). "The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is a livebearer: 300 embryos found in one ‘megamamma’ supreme". Environ. Biol. Fish. 46 (3): 219–223. doi:10.1007/BF00004997. 
  24. ^ Clark, Eugenie. "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 26 September 2006. 
  25. ^ Schmidt, Jennifer; Chien, C-C, Sheikh, SI, Meekan, MG, Norman, BM and Joung, S-J. "Paternity analysis in a litter of whale shark embryos". Endangered Species Research 12: 117–124. doi:10.3354/esr00300. 
  26. ^ "Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) Issues Paper". Biology of Whale Shark. Department of the Environment and Heritage (Australian Government). 2005. 
  27. ^ Tan, Jose Ma. Lorenzo. "Tiny Whale shark pup caught and released in the Philippines". Wildlife Extra News. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  28. ^ "St Helena whale sharks cause stir in Atlanta". South Atlantic Media Services, 14 November 2013. 
  29. ^ "Memorandum of understanding on the conservation of migratory sharks". Convention on migratory species. p. 10. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  30. ^ Whale Sharks Receive Protection in the Philippines.[dead link]
  31. ^ National Regulations on Whale Shark fishing. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
  32. ^ COA bans fishing for whale sharks. Taipei Times, 27 May 2007, p.4.
  33. ^ Resorts World considering alternatives to whale shark exhibit. Asia One Travel, 16 May 2009.
  34. ^ Animal welfare groups oppose whale sharks at Singapore casino. News Limited, 13 March 2009.
  35. ^ Handwerk, Brian (24 September 2010) Whale Sharks Killed, Displaced by Gulf Oil? National Geographic News.
  36. ^ "Whale Shark". Discovery.com. Archived from the original on 2009-03-04. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  37. ^ Ocean Ambassadors - Sharks. Oneocean.org. Retrieved on 23 May 2013.
General references
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!