Are you a whale shark expert? Think again! Discover 10 mind-blowing facts about this shark of the sea that will make you go wow!
It's no secret that the whale shark is a colossal creature, measuring up to 12 meters in length. While this may be the most well-known fact about these gentle giants, there's so much more to discover about this fascinating species.
Here are 10 fun facts about this majestic fish. 👇
1.- IT IS NOT EXACTLY A SHARK. IT IS NOT A WHALE EITHER.
Although often mistaken for a whale, the whale shark is actually a member of the shark family. Its name is derived from its massive size and unique filter feeding habits, rather than any relation to whales.
2.- THEY HAVE A UNIQUE FEEDING METHOD
The whale shark's unique feeding method is a marvel of nature. They have five large gill slits that they use to filter plankton and other small organisms out of the water.
As filter feeders, they swim with their massive mouths wide open, allowing the water to pass through their gills and trapping the food in their mouths. This process is made possible by the whale shark's gill rakers, which act like a sieve to filter out the food and prevent it from escaping. It's a fascinating adaptation that allows the whale shark to consume up to 1.5% of its body weight in plankton each day.
3.-THEY HAVE A LIFE EXPECTANCY OF MORE THAN 100 YEARS.
The whale shark's age may remain a mystery, but one thing we know for sure is that they can live for a remarkably long time. In fact, by using a method similar to counting tree rings, researchers have been able to estimate their ages.
By counting the growth rings on the vertebrae of deceased specimens, scientists have identified whale sharks that have lived up to 130 years! This makes them one of the longest-living vertebrates on the planet. However, it's important to note that not all whale sharks will reach this incredible age, and many factors such as disease, environmental stresses, and human activity can impact their lifespan. Nonetheless, these discoveries shed new light on the enigmatic life of the whale shark and highlight the importance of protecting these magnificent creatures for generations to come.
4.- THEY ARE SLOW SWIMMERS
Despite being one of the largest creatures in the ocean, whale sharks are surprisingly slow swimmers. They typically move at a speed of 3 to 5 miles per hour (8.05 km/h), which is a far cry from the blazing speeds of a dolphin at 13 miles per hour (20.92 km/h) or a mako shark at a whopping 31 miles per hour (49.89 km/h).
However, there are reasons for their leisurely pace. Whale sharks don't need to swim quickly to hunt prey as they filter-feed, and their massive size and physiology allow them to float longer and conserve energy. So while they may not be the fastest swimmers in the sea, they are still one of the most majestic and fascinating creatures to behold.
5.- THERE ARE FEW OFFSPRING
Female whale sharks face numerous challenges when it comes to reproduction. Some reasons on the low number of baby whale sharks are:
- They reach reproductive age until 30 years
- Their gestation periods can last from 16 to 18 months occurring in intervals of up to three years.
- Environmental factors and human intervention that disrupt their reproductive cycle
It is a real challenge for female whale sharks to give birth to their 10 to 30 pups, each measuring around 60 centimeters in length.
6.- FOUND IN WARM WATERS AROUND THE WORLD
Whale sharks are found in warm waters all over the planet, from the tropics to as far north as New York and as far south as New Zealand.
They are frequently seen in:
- Ningaloo Reef, Australia, from March to August.
- Isla Mujeres, Mexico, from May to September.
- Donsol Bay, Philippines, November to June. This is the whale shark capital of the world.
- Maldives, all year round, but the best time is from May to December.
- Mozambique: has the highest concentration of whale sharks in the world. You can see them here from October to March.
7.- THEY ARE NOT DANGEROUS TO HUMANS.
Despite being a member of the shark family, whale sharks are one of the most peaceful species you'll find in the ocean. They have no interest in hunting humans, as their diet mainly consists of plankton and small fish.
They are known to be curious creatures, but it's important to remember that they are still wild animals and should be treated with respect. If you're lucky enough to swim with them, keep a safe distance and avoid touching them to ensure their protection and your safety.
8.- THEY HAVE AN EXCELLENT SENSE OF SMELL
The whale shark's sense of smell is truly remarkable. They have a pair of nostrils on the top of their head that are so sensitive, they can detect the scent of plankton, which is practically odorless. Unlike other sharks, they are not attracted to the smell of blood. So, rest assured, swimming with these giants is a safe and peaceful experience. 🐋🦈
9.- THEY HAVE A UNIQUE PATTERN OF SPOTS
Just like fingerprints in humans, each whale shark has a unique pattern of light-colored spots distributed randomly throughout their body. This distinctive feature allows experts to identify and track individuals using a specially designed database, adding to our understanding of these magnificent creatures.
10.- THEY ARE LIKE SUBMARINES
Not many are aware that whale sharks are capable of vertical movement, despite their slow swimming. They can dive deep into the water, reaching depths of up to 1,900 meters, making them extremely elusive creatures. This unique ability is what sets them apart as the deepest diving sharks in the world!
We still need to know more!
As the whale shark continues to amaze us with its unique characteristics, the efforts of conservation and marine life experts to uncover more about this species never cease. As for us, it is our responsibility to protect their habitat and show them the respect they deserve.
For an unforgettable encounter, contact us and embark on the ultimate whale shark adventure in Cancun. Our tour guarantees safety, fun, and a fully immersive experience with these majestic creatures. Don't miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!