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Home > About The Species > Just the Facts - Whale Sharks

Just the Facts - Whale Sharks

by Beth Carter
  • Whale sharks are the largest fish in the oceans.
  • The average adult whale shark is 9 meters long, or 27 feet long!
  • The largest whale shark ever caught was 12.6 meters long, or 41.5 feet long!
  • Whale sharks are NOT whales, which are mammals. The largest whale is the blue whale.
  • Whale sharks are pelagic. This means they live in the open sea. Most sharks are bethnic, or bottom dwellers.
  • Most whale sharks are found in warm, tropical waters.
  • Whale sharks are filter feeders. They eat tiny plants and animals.
  • They eat more than 2.6 tons of food per day!
  • Whale sharks have 300 rows of tiny teeth.
  • They eat tiny plankton, krill, small squid, and algae.
  • Whale sharks are not dangerous to humans. They can be playful near divers.
  • Whale sharks are ovoviviparous. This means that the female has eggs inside her body, and then the eggs hatch inside her body.
  • When the baby sharks are 40-60 cm long, they swim out of her body and so are born alive.
  • Whale sharks are considered a “threatened” or “vulnerable” species.
  • There is still much to learn about whale sharks.
  • Whale sharks may become endangered if limits are not placed on fishing and collecting them.

Think About…
  • How could scientists find out more about whale sharks?
  • Why is it important to keep whale sharks from becoming endangered or extinct?
  • What role do whale sharks play in the food chain of the ocean?
  • What animal is the whale shark’s primary predator?
  • Would you be likely to find whale sharks off the southern coast of Africa? Why or why not?
  • Why is it difficult to keep whale sharks in captivity?
  • If an average whale shark is 27 feet long, how long is that in terms of your classroom? Can you measure 27 feet in your school’s hallway or parking lot to show a whale shark’s length? How about the longest whale shark’s length?

(After you think a while, ask an adult or older friend to read the Whale Shark FAQ with you. Look at the pictures and other materials.)

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mugshotAbout the author:

Beth Carter is a K-1 teacher at the Cape Fear Center for Inquiry in Wilmington, NC.

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