What Are Some Facts About Whale Sharks?


Quick Answer

Whale sharks are the largest living fish, with a maximum weight of 34 tons and a maximum length of 67 feet. They are filter feeders equipped with special filter structures in their enlarged gills. They have a global distribution and migrate great distances but prefer to live and feed in warmer coastal waters where food sources are plentiful.

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What Are Some Facts About Whale Sharks?
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Full Answer

Whale sharks have enormous, gaping mouths which are generally open as they swim. They have multiple rows of tiny, replaceable teeth that have only a small role in feeding. Their prey includes not only plankton such as krill, crab larvae and jellyfish, but also sardines, mackerel, small tuna and squid. When prey is scarce, the sharks feed passively, swimming forward with their mouths open in what is known as ram feeding. Water enters their mouths and flows out through their gill filters.

Suction feeding is done when there is somewhat more food available. The sharks are generally still during this type of feeding, sometimes with a vertical orientation. The shark opens its mouth forcefully, drawing in a great deal of water and forcing it out past its gill filters as it closes again. With dense prey populations, the shark practices active surface ram feeding. With the top of its mouth above the waterline, the shark swims forcefully in circles.

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