Whale Shark
Rhincodon typus

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
SubPhylum: Vertebrata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Order: Orectolobiformes
Family: Rhincodontidae
Genus: Rhincodon
Species: Rhincodon typus

The whale shark is known for being the largest fish species in the world. It can reach lengths of up to 15 meters and weigh more than 18 metric tons.

The whale shark resides in tropical seas along the equator (+/- 40 degrees). The whale shark feeds on plankton and small fish. A mesh like structure in the throat, known as gill rakers, are able to filter the water for prey as small as one mm in diameter. The mouth of the whale shark can be as wide as 1.5 meters, but can only swallow small objects, due to the small gullet.

A Whale Shark can be recognized by its coloration. Dark grey, dark green or brown with white spots on top and white or light yellow on bottom. The whale shark has 5 gill slits, 2 dorsal fins and an anal fin.

The only human threat from a whale shark is perhaps being rammed in a boat. They apparently mistake boats for rival sharks.

Sources:
Whale Shark Research Group, inc www.whaleshark.org
Clark, Eugene. 1992. Gentle Monsters of the Deep - Whale Sharks. National Geographic, volume 182, pp. 120-139.
Lineweaver III, Thomas H. and Backus, Richard H. 1969. The Natural History of Sharks. New York and Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company.
1998 Encyclopedia Brittanica Online
The Regents of the University of Michigan

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