Whale sharks are exciting and mysterious animals, and our whale shark facts are here to prove that. Though they may not be as popular as some other types of sharks, they are definitely worth our attention.
So, if you have ever wondered what whale sharks are, where they live, or what makes them unique, you are in the right place. Read on to learn all that and more.
Top 10 Whale Shark Facts
- Whale sharks can reach the size of a school bus.
- The patterns on whale shark backs are entirely unique.
- Facts about the whale shark reveal that they are sharks, not whales.
- A female whale shark can give birth to 300 babies at once.
- Whale sharks can have over 3,000 teeth.
- Facts show that the species are believed to be 60 million years old.
- One of the cool facts about whale sharks is that they are harmless to humans.
- Whale sharks have retractable eyes.
- Statistics show that whale sharks can live up to 150 years.
- Whale sharks are quite slow.
Essential Whale Shark Facts And Information
Whale sharks are in the top five greatest enigmas of the marine world. It’s hard to understand them completely, but some of these facts might be a good start.
1. Facts about the whale shark reveal that they are sharks, not whales.
Even though the name of this animal might be a bit confusing, it belongs to a genus of shark called Rhincodon.
The name “whale shark” comes from the size, as they look more like small whales than sharks.
2. Whale sharks can reach the size of a school bus, according to cool whale shark facts.
(Oceana, Ocean Portal)
Speaking of size, whale sharks are the largest fish alive.
They are usually between 25 and 45 feet. In some cases, though, the whale sharks can grow up to 60 feet. This is almost 40 feet more than the great white shark.
However, a blue whale, as shark facts state, is still bigger. Blue whales reach up to 110 feet in size, 50 feet more than whale sharks. They are the largest mammals — and animals, in general.
3. The patterns on their back are entirely unique.
(How Stuff Works)
One of many interesting facts about whale sharks is that, unlike most other sharks, whale sharks have a color pattern on their back. Whale sharks are usually grey with blue or brown undertones — and with beige polka dots and stripes.
Scientists believe that these dots and stripes are unique to each whale shark. So, they use these patterns to track individual sharks.
The purpose of the patterns is unknown but is believed to be an evolutionary trait.
4. One of the exciting whale shark teeth facts is that whale sharks can have over 3,000 teeth.
Whale sharks have giant mouths that can be up to four feet wide. They can have over 3,000 teeth in their mouth. However, those teeth are very small, so they are not used for actual eating.
5. Recent shark whale facts reveal that whale sharks have retractable eyes.
(The Guardian, PLOS ONE)
Aside from this, Japanese scientists also found out that whale sharks have scale-like structures that surround their iris. These structures — together with the above-mentioned ability — protect their eyes from physical damage.
6. Warm ocean water is the perfect habitat for whale sharks, according to whale shark habitat facts.
Whale sharks prefer water that’s 69.8–77°F. They are mostly found in the Southern hemisphere, with the Indian ocean being their favorite.
They are highly migratory, though, so it’s not easy for scientists to track them down.
7. Australia is the place with the most whale shark sightings.
A useful whale shark fact is that if you are interested in seeing a whale shark, your best bet is visiting Australia. In Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Queensland, there have been many sightings of whale sharks.
Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef seems to be their favorite, with many whale sharks sightings due to plenty of plankton in the water.
8. Not much is known about whale sharks’ breeding habits, facts about a whale shark show.
Based on the evidence they do have, whale sharks give birth to fully functional babies. However, where whale sharks choose to breed, where they give birth, and many other whale sharks’ breeding habits remain a mystery.
9. According to the whale shark baby facts, a female whale shark can give birth to 300 babies at once!
However, not many of them survive till maturity.
What’s also interesting about them is that while they do produce eggs, those eggs are stored inside, and they give birth to live young.
Fun facts about the whale shark reveal that the smallest whale shark observed was 1.8 feet long. Scientists consider this to be the length of a newborn baby whale shark.
10. Whale sharks are filter feeders, which is a trait shared by only a small number of animals.
(SharkSider, How Stuff Works)
One of the most interesting facts about the whale shark is that they are filter feeders.
Filter feeding means that sharks open their mouths, swim, and take in water with food. Or they open and close their mouths, sucking in a lot of water and food.
They have filters in their gills that separate water from food — the food stays in and goes to their throat while the water goes out.
11. Whale shark’s main food is plankton, as reported by whale shark diet facts.
Although most sharks prefer meat and can even sense blood, whale sharks’ diet mainly consists of plankton.
These are mostly krill, fish eggs, and copepods.
12. One of the cool facts about whale sharks is that they are harmless to humans.
Most people are scared of sharks. But, statistics prove that the odds of being bitten by any shark are only 1 in 3,748,067.
Facts about whale sharks reveal that the probability of getting attacked by a whale shark is almost zero. The whale sharks are one of the least dangerous marine animals.
That being said, an event of a whale shark trying to swallow a human was recorded. The human was not swallowed in the end, nor eaten — the whale shark simply spat him out.
So it’s safe to say that humans are not in great danger from whale sharks. Unfortunately, whale sharks are in danger from humans.
Whale Shark Protection Facts
Like most animals, whale sharks, one of the ocean’s gentle giants, need protection. So let’s see what the situation looks like in 2021.
12. Facts about whale sharks show that the whale shark is on the IUCN Red List and is endangered.
(IUCN Red List)
One of the saddest shark whale facts is that they are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. They are listed as an endangered species and are only three steps away from being extinct.
Statistics show that the whale shark population has decreased by more than 50% in the last 75 years. If nothing is done, it will keep decreasing.
Other sharks are not safe either, as 30% of all sharks are endangered.
13. A sad whale shark fact is that hundreds of whale sharks are hunted each year.
(National Geographic, National Geographic)
Although whale shark hunting is illegal, whale sharks are still hunted each year.
Only one Chinese fish factory processes around 500–600 big sharks each year, including whale sharks. The number of processed sharks gets more serious when we consider that whale shark numbers are already measured in thousands and that there might be more such factories.
14. You shouldn’t touch a whale shark.
(Mashable, Leisure Pro)
One of the whale shark interesting facts is that touching them can be quite harmful.
More precisely, they are covered in protective mucus, which can be compromised by touching.
Moreover, by touching and feeding whale sharks, humans can make them get used to that kind of attention. This way, in search of food from humans, they can approach hunting boats and get killed.
Finally, their skin is covered in not just mucus but also dermal denticles, which can leave you with an unpleasant “shark burn”.
Other Whale Shark Fun Facts
Besides general facts, there are many other interesting facts about the whale shark. Stay tuned to find out more about this fascinating animal.
15. When talking about whale sharks, facts show that the species are believed to be 60 million years old.
Scientists believe that during the period when dinosaurs became extinct, the whale sharks came into existence. It evolved from its ancestors between 35 to 60 million years ago.
Sharks have been around for 450 million years and are some of the longest-existing species. Whale sharks, with ‘only’ 60 million years of existence, are among the youngest shark types.
16. The whale shark species was first discovered in 1828.
The whale shark interesting facts show that the whale shark was discovered a lot later than other sharks.
A physician, Andrew Smith, created a categorization of fish in South Africa in 1828. While doing so, he described a type of fish he called the largest shark in the ocean — the whale shark.
17. When talking about whale sharks, facts show that males are smaller than females.
Even though not much is known about whale sharks, recent studies suggest that the size of a whale shark might be related to its sex.
A 2020 research on whale sharks shows that male whale sharks grow less than female sharks. More precisely, male sharks usually grow up to 30 feet, while female sharks can grow beyond 40 feet.
18. Statistics show that whale sharks can live up to 150 years.
(Fish, Science, WWF)
As reported by facts about the whale shark, they grow extremely quickly. But this process slows down over time, and whale sharks reach maturity around the age of 30.
Most whale sharks don’t survive that long. Those that do survive, can live up to 150 years.
19. Whale sharks are quite slow, as revealed by whale shark fun facts.
One of the most surprising facts about whale sharks is that they are extremely slow — for a shark. A whale shark’s average speed is only 3 mph, which is the average speed of walking.
Compared to other sharks, like the great white that can swim up to 25 mph, whale sharks’ top speed of 6 mph seems almost funny.
However, it’s still faster than the fastest human swimming speed, which is around 5 mph.
20. It’s possible to swim with whale sharks.
(Australia’s Coral Coast)
One of the whale shark facts that the lovers of this animal might find satisfying is that you can swim with whale sharks.
Swimming with whale sharks is an attraction offered in many places, the most famous one being Australia’s Ningaloo Reef.
What is special about whale sharks?
The main two things that make whale sharks special are that there are not many of them and that there is a veil of mystery surrounding them.
Of course, there are many different things that make whale sharks special. For example, they are the biggest fish in the sea, they are filter feeders, they have retractable eyes, and much more.
Why are whale sharks endangered?
There are three main factors why whale sharks are endangered — loss of their habitats, hunting, and pollution.
Habitats, or places where whale fish live, are lost due to noise, overfishing, and building directly on the coasts.
One of the biggest problems for whale sharks, as well as the whole ocean, is pollution. Pollution is such a big issue that in some places in the ocean, there is more plastic than planktons.
According to whale sharks facts, the largest preservation problem is hunting. Due to hunting in places like China, a few hundred whale sharks lose their lives each year.
With these three factors combined, it’s no surprise that there are not many whale sharks left.
What is the current population of whale sharks?
According to whale shark facts, the 2021 population of whale sharks is estimated at 119,000–238,000. The exact numbers are not known, as only around 7,000 whale sharks are tracked.
(EDGE of Existence, IUCN Red List)
Is the whale shark population increasing?
The whale shark population is not increasing. On the contrary — it is decreasing. The estimates are that in the last 75 years, we’ve lost about half of the whale shark population.
Unfortunately, the numbers are expected to decrease even more.
(IUCN Red List)
Has a whale shark ever eaten a human?
There are no recorded cases of a whale shark eating a human. Whale sharks, in general, don’t eat anything big — planktons are their most typical food.
There have been cases of a whale shark accidentally sucking up a human, but they’d always spit them out.
With all these exceptional whale shark facts, it’s safe to say that whale sharks are one of the world’s greatest animals. Besides being the largest fish in the ocean, whale sharks are unique and special in many ways.
It’s easy to understand why protecting whale sharks should be a prerogative for both us and future generations.
- Australia’s Coral Coast
- EDGE of Existence
- How Stuff Works
- How Stuff Works
- IUCN Red List
- Leisure Pro
- Live Science
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- Ocean Portal
- PLOS ONE