The Whale Shark: The Largest Known Extant Fish in the World
Shark's mouth in comparison to a lady diver swimming alongside
The whale shark is noted for its docile behaviour when in contact with humans. Despite possessing a very large mouth with average size of 1.5 meters (4.9 ft), it feeds mainly on plankton and other microscopic plants and animals and doesn’t pose a threat of biting or swallowing a swimmer nearby. Scuba divers were known to have come closer to this creature and “play” with it without risk of having been rammed or whipped by its tail owing to a violent reaction against human presence (sad to say the early representatives of this species were harpooned to death by our kind, to be caught for closer investigation).
Whale sharks have rows of teeth which contribute rarely in their feeding habits. They suck mouthfuls of water containing planktons and micro-organisms and make use of dermal denticles which act as sieve to filter stuffs taken for food before expelling the volume of water taken in. They migrate to feed and to breed as confirmed by their sightings in places like Bay islands in Honduras, Maldives, Philippines, Thailand, Red Sea, Western Australia, Belize and Mozambique among other places.
Taken as main attractions in marine life aquariums around the world, specimens had been kept in Japan (5), Taiwan (1), China (2) and USA (6) for both amusement and research purposes. Being targeted by commercial fishing in areas where they were most abundant and where their flesh were prized as a delicacy (considering their flesh have similarity in texture and taste to tofu, causing them to be dubbed “tufu sharks”) they were considered “vulnerable” (a category likely to become endangered) by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).