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What are some facts about whale sharks for kids?

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As of 2014, whale sharks are the largest known species of fish. They are almost as large as many actual whales and even dinosaurs. Adult whale sharks are at least 25 feet long and weigh up to 20,000 pounds. The largest recorded whale shark was discovered in 1947; it was 41.5 feet long and weighed more than 47,000 pounds.

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Although they are very large, whale sharks are not usually dangerous to humans and are not known to attack. Although experts recommend against it, some swimmers have ridden on whale sharks. These sharks live away from the shore in the deep parts of warm, tropical oceans. The average lifespan of a whale shark is 70 years.

Whale sharks are one of three types of sharks that are filter feeders. Instead of hunting, they glide through the water, taking in water and very small creatures like plankton. Their mouths are large, sometimes as much as 4.9 feet wide. Whale sharks have between 300 and 350 tiny rows of teeth and five big pairs of gills.

Whale sharks are important in Vietnamese culture where they are called Ca Ong, meaning "Sir Fish." In the Philippines, there is a whale shark on one side of the 100-peso bill.

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