Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus (Smith 1828)


A Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus, at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. Source: FGBNMS / Eckert / NOAA. License: Public Domain

Summary:
The mighty Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus, is the world's largest living fish. This gentle giant, with its chequerboard pattern of spots and stripes, feeds solely on zooplankton.

Video of a Whale Shark surrounded by Cobia at Flat Rock, North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, March 2017.

Video of a Whaleshark at Batu Katoka, Indonesia.

Video of a shoal of baitfish using a whale shark to protect them from voracious Yellowfin Tuna. Make sure you watch right to the end of the 3.5 minutes.


Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Rhincodon typus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Nov 2018, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/1980

Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus (Smith 1828)

More Info


Distribution

Found worldwide in tropical and subtropical oceans.

Feeding

Planktivores - feeding on zooplankton, including the eggs and larvae of fishes and invertebrates. Whale sharks are migratory, and often form seasonal aggregations close to shore when food is abundant.

Biology

Little is known of Whale Shark reproductive biology. Whale sharks are ovoviviparous, meaning that they give birth to live young that have hatched from their egg cases within the uterus of the female (Joung et al. 1996). One female whale shark carried more than 300 embryos in varying stages of development within her uterus. The embryos ranged from 42 cm total length (TL) embryos still in egg cases, to hatched embryos free-living in the uterus, measuring 58-64 cm TL. Very few small whale sharks have ever been seen, and the smallest to date is a pup, measuring 46 cm TL, caught on hook and line in 2009 near Donsol in the Philippines (Aca & Schmidt 2011).

Conservation


Remarks

Whale sharks are negatively buoyant meaning they naturally sink. When feeding, they glide gently down to feed on krill in deep water, thereby not expending much energy swimming. Meekan et al (2015) estimated that this behaviour, followed by a steep return to warmer surface waters, allows whale sharks to conserve up to 30% of the energy they would use if just swimming horizontally.

Etymology

Rhincodon is from the Greek rhinos meaning "rasp", and odon meaning "tooth" ... as described by Smith, 1829: “Teeth small, slightly curved, placed in longitudinal rows, and altogether so disposed towards the anterior edges of jaws as to exhibit the resemblance of a rasp or file lying across each …” (The Etyfish Project)

Author

Bray, D.J. 2017

Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus (Smith 1828)

References


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Quick Facts


CAAB Code:37014001

Conservation:IUCN Endangered; EPBC Migratory & Vulnerable; CITES Listed

Depth:0-1000+ m

Habitat:Pelagic

Max Size:20 m; 34 tonne

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map