Rhincodon typus (Whale shark)
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Rhincodon typus (Whale shark) [Illustration
by Ann Hecht ©]
An enormous, blunt-headed shark, with a
terminal mouth and prominent checkerboard pattern of white stripes
and spots. Colour dark grey to reddish brown above, white below.
The largest living fish, to at least 12 m TL, and possibly up
to 16 to 21 m.
Primarily off Natal and Mozambique, but
wandering southwest to Table Bay, western Cape; circumtropical.
Coastal and oceanic, sometimes close inshore.
Apparently highly migratory, and possibly following plankton blooms.
May lay eggs in large cases, but this is uncertain. Whale sharks are
suction filter-feeders with unique filter screens on their inner
gill openings, with the prey `filtered' ranging from unicellular
algae and small crustaceans to tunas, albacore and squid.
Fished elsewhere for human consumption.
Text by Leonard J.V. Compagno, David A. Ebert
and Malcolm J. Smale