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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Creature Feature: Whale Shark

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In this new series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.


In celebration of International Whale Shark Day, we’re showcasing the majestic Whale Shark…

This mighty shark is the biggest fish in the ocean. The largest on record was over 20m long and weighed 42 tonnes! Yet the average size of Whale Sharks today is generally much smaller.

These slow-moving giants are grey-blue in colour with a distinctive pattern of pale spots. This pattern is unique to each individual, just like human fingerprints! So, researchers can use these distinct markings to identify and then monitor individual Whale Sharks.

Whale Sharks have a huge mouth that can be up to 1.5m wide. They’re one of only three filter-feeding sharks – the others being the Megamouth and Basking Shark. Unlike Basking Sharks, Whale Sharks don’t depend on forward movement to feed, and can also suck in their food by opening their huge mouth.



They have 3000 tiny teeth, but these aren’t used for feeding. Instead Whale Sharks use long comb-like structures on their gills, known as gill-rakers. These trap and filter zooplankton as small as 1mm, such as krill, crab larvae and jellyfish. Sometimes Whale Sharks can be seen ‘coughing’, and it’s thought that this helps them clear food particles that have accumulated on their gill-rakers.

Whale Sharks are highly migratory. One was recorded travelling 13,000km in one direction over 37 months. Many individuals will return to the same locations each year. Hot spots include Western Australia, Philippines, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Galapagos, St Helena, Mozambique, Seychelles and the Maldives.

In some locations they’re sighted all year round. While in other areas they’re only seen at certain times of the year. It’s thought that this behaviour is primarily guided by food. For example, every year Whale Sharks gather within the Ningaloo Marine Park, Australia, in March-April – their appearance coinciding with a coral mass spawning event.

The largest known aggregation sites host hundreds or even thousands of individuals. Their beauty and gentle demeanour inspire people to travel from all over the world to see them.

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Rhincodon typus

  • FAMILY: Rhincodontidae – Whale Sharks are the only member of this family

  • MAXIMUM SIZE: 20m

  • DIET: Plankton (mainly zooplankton) and small fish

  • DISTRIBUTION: All tropical and warm-temperate seas, except the Mediterranean.

  • HABITAT: Generally seen in open seas, where there’s plenty of zooplankton. Occasionally they venture closer to shore, entering lagoons or coral atolls. They can dive to depths of 1,928m to feed.

  • CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered

Adopt a Whale Shark

When you adopt a Whale Shark you’ll be helping to fund vital research in the Maldives. We’ll send you our Whale Shark adoption pack which includes:

  • Personalised Certificate
  • Factsheets – learn all about your amazing shark & research project
  • Poster
  • BookmarkGreeting Card – left blank for your message

Click here to Adopt a Whale Shark 

The Shark Trust is the leading UK-based shark conservation charity. The team works globally to safeguard the future of sharks, and their close cousins, the skates and rays. Engaging with a global network of scientists, policymakers, conservation professionals, businesses and supporters, to further shark conservation. Established in 1997 to provide a voice for UK sharks, the Shark Trust has an ever-growing number of passionate supporters. And together we're creating positive change for sharks around the world. Want to join us and help protect sharks around the world? Click here! www.sharktrust.org

Marine Life & Conservation

The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Dan Abbott of Save The Med Foundation

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Gemma and Ian chat to Dan Abbott.  Dan works at Save The Med Foundation.  He is incredibly passionate about marine conservation, underwater filmmaking, drones and helping people understand the world of sharks. It’s probably safe to say sharks are his main passion, and he has spent the last five years traveling around the world filming various species including great white sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks.

Have a listen here:

Find out more here:


Find more podcast episodes and information at the new www.thebigscuba.com  website and on most social platforms @thebigscuba

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Marine Life & Conservation

The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Andy Forster of Dive Project Cornwall

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Gemma and Ian chat to Andy Forster.  Andy is the Project Director at Dive Project Cornwall.  He tells us about his own passion for diving as well as how Dive Project Cornwall is going to educate and inspire many youngsters over the coming year.

Have a listen here:

Find out more at www.diveprojectcornwall.co.uk


Find more podcast episodes and information at the new www.thebigscuba.com  website and on most social platforms @thebigscuba 

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