The Whale Shark is a large filter-feeding shark characterised by a streamlined body with a flattened, broad head. It has a very large and wide mouth, positioned at the front of the head, with approximately 300 minute teeth in each jaw. The first dorsal fin is much larger than the second. These sharks are greyish, bluish or brownish above, with a distinctive checkered pattern of creamy white spots between pale vertical and horizontal stripes. The Whale Shark has three prominent ridges along its flanks and a spiracle (small round hole) behind each eye. This species has five large gill-slits, which are modified to function as filtering screens as well as to extract oxygen from the water. The Whale Shark is the world’s largest fish, with the largest accurately measured specimen being 12 m in length. Animals over 3 m in length are encountered worldwide and most reported specimens are between 4 and 10 m.
Whale Shark |
Status: Vulnerable on the EPBC Act list
Government evidence of impact of climate change:
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Australian Government, Conservation Advice, Rhincodon typus
Other less important threats include disturbance from domestic tourism operations; marine debris and climate change.