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WHAT IS THE WHALESHARK?

A Whale Shark is a shark with a broad flat head and checkerboard pattern of spots and stripes on its back. The Whale-Shark is dark grey, bronze or greenish grey above with white to cream spots and transverse stripes; white to cream below. They are the largest fish in the world; most individuals encountered by divers range between 18 and 35 ft (5.5 to 10.6m) total length.



The largest accurately measured individual was a 39.9 ft (12.19m) male caught off Bombay, India, in 1983. Maximum total length is uncertain, possibly to 60 ft (18m). The Whale Shark is a versatile suction-feeder that feeds on a wide variety of planktonic and nektonic organisms: masses of krill are regularly consumed, along with squid, and small fish: sardines, anchovies and mackerel.















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The Whale Shark is often observed feeding near the surface. Sometimes the shark assumes a vertical posture with its mouth uppermost, then bobs up and down in 15- to 20-second cycles, pausing at the surface to let food-laden water rush into its mouth and strain through its gill plates. There are numerous reports of pelagic gamefish (particularly skipjack, albacore and cobia) swimming with whale sharks; it is thought that the gamefish may prey on smaller fishes that, like the whale shark, are feeding on the plankton. Solitary sharks have been observed in many areas, but large congregations occur in only a few spots in the world. In the Eastern Pacific many sharks are seen off Mexico from Cabo San Lucas to Acapulco from March to August, and in the Western Pacific there are frequent sightings of the sharks off the Queensland coast in January and February. In the Indian Ocean. whale sharks mass at Ningaloo Reef, northwestern Australia, in March and April when the coral spawn The sharks congregate in Seychelles in August and November but the greatest aggregations appear to occur along the coast of East Africa (South Africa and Mozambique) from October through April.

 

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