The Whale Shark


The Whale Shark Essay, Research Paper

The Whale Shark

At a whopping forty-six feet and a massive fifteen tons, you can see why the whale shark is called they whale shark. The whale shark is the biggest shark and the biggest fish in the ocean (The Whale Shark Bibliography – Tethys Marine). As you can see it is not a whale. It has a mouth, which is around 4 feet wide. Its mouth is at the front of the head and not underside like most sharks. On this massive giant, are a wide flat head, a rounded snout, small eyes, five gill slits, two dorsal fins, and two pectoral fins (The Whale Shark Bibliography – Tethys Marine). The spiracle is also located just behind the shark s eye. And another distinguishing feature is that its tail has a top fin much larger than the lower fin. Another unique characteristic is that the whale shark has a distinctive light yellow marking on its body. These come in the form of different stripes and dots. Like other sharks, the female is normally larger than the male sharks are. Also, pregnant females have been found containing hundreds of pups, which means that whale sharks are viviparous. This means giving birth to live young, and these newborns are over two feet long. Most whale sharks are sexually mature at thirty years old. This is when they are able to mate and reproduce. One thing that may be of some

relief would be that whale sharks are harmless to people and usually to divers as well. But to top all of that, it is estimated that whale sharks live up to 100 150 years.

The classification of the whale shark is fairly simple, they are in kingdom Animalia, then phylum Chordata, next they are in subphylum vertebrata, after that is placed in the class Chondrichthyes, and then subclass Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays), next in the family Rhincodontidae, after that in the genus Rhincodon, and finally in the species Typus (The Whale Shark Bibliography. Tethys Marine).

Swimming in the whale sharks can go along well with their names. They are insanely slow swimmers, going no more that three miles per hour. They swim by moving their entire bodies from side to side, unlike other sharks who just use there tails. Their teeth are very tiny, but a whale shark carriers more than 3,000 teeth, but they are of little use. Whale sharks are filter feeders that get their food from their large gills (Sea Dwellers Whale Sharks. PBS Online). As a whale shark swims, it keeps it mouth open, so it can suck masses of water filled with prey into its mouth and through a type of spongy tissue between its several gill arches. After closing its mouth, the shark uses its gill rakers that filter the food from the huge amounts of water. Anything that doesn t pass

through the gills is eaten. Gill rakers are bristly structures in the shark s moth that trap the small organisms, which the shark then swallows (Sea Dwellers Whale Sharks. PBS Online). The water is excreted through the gill slits. Many food favorites for the whale shark are plankton, krill, small fish, and squid. But one amazing task that no other shark can do is that it can expel over 1500 gallons of water in an hour (Whale Sharks All About Sharks). Also in the whale sharks (social groups), they are very solitary creatures, which can rarely be seen. Most of the whale sharks live in warm waters along the coast and open seas, but most of their time is spent near the surface.

The whale shark is a fascinating creature that is a giant that in my opinion could be mistaken for a submarine. It is also set apart from many other sharks, which show that it may have evolved from a whale of some sort. Also, there are many behaviors of the whale shark that makes it different than other sharks, such examples could be about the friendliness it has. But overall, the whale shark, is a very interesting creature, and can dominate the ocean floor with its large size.

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