Whale Shark

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Whale Shark Photos

Taken at Darwin's Arch, Galapagos Islands, July, 2004.

The Whale Shark (Rhincodon Typus), is the largest fish in the world, typically 20 - 45 feet in length (maximum length of 55') and weighing up to 15 Tons.  The females are much larger than the males (as is typical of all shark species), and all of the Whale Sharks encountered in the Galapagos Islands are Female. 

Whale sharks are found worldwide in warm ocean waters from the equator to about 30 North and South latitude.  Whale Sharks live up to 150 years, feeding primarily on plankton, krill, small fish and squid.  The whale shark is a filter feeder that sieves small animals from the water using a spongy material between its gills called gill rakers.  These rakers are functionally similar to the baleen plates possessed by many whales.

The whale shark has a huge mouth which can be up to 4 feet wide. Its mouth is at the very front of its head (not on the underside of the head like most sharks). The mouth contains about 3000 very tiny teeth, but ironically, they neither chew nor bite their food. They have 5 very large gill slits, 2 dorsal fins and 2 pectoral fins. The spiracle (a vestigial gill slit used for breathing when the shark is resting on the sea floor) is the hole located just behind the shark's eye.

Whale Sharks are harmless to divers and are an incredible pleasure to interact with.  Although often confused with a Whale, they are in fact sharks, and their closest relatives are Nurse and Wobbegong sharks.  Whale sharks are slow swimmers, going about 3 mph (which is just about as fast as a diver can swim). They swim by moving their entire bodies from side to side (not just their tails). Whale sharks are viviparous, giving birth to live young that are about 2 feet long

We were fortunate enough to encounter Whale Sharks on 4 of the 8 dives that we did at Darwin's Arch.  Click on any of the photos in the gallery above for a larger version of the whale shark pictures.

keywords: whale shark photos, whale, shark, whale shark

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