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 10m.
Whale Shark |
Status: Vulnerable on the EPBC Act list
Government evidence of impact of climate change:
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Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Species Profile and Threats Database, Rhincodon typus
Deterioration or destruction of important seasonal coral reef habitat and feeding areas through coral bleaching events; climate change and other anthropogenic distrurbances (for exapmle oil spills); may pose a threat to Whale Sharks (Stewart Wilson 2005 cited in DEWHA 2008b) During the late 1980s; there was a decline in Whale Shark numbers on Ningaloo Reef which was thought to be associated with the destruction of corals by the coral eating sea snail; Drupella cornus (Taylor 1996).