Whale Sharks

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Whale sharks were recently spotted near the sea off Panaiyur fishing village along the Chennai coast.

About Whale Sharks:

  • The whale shark is the largest fish in the world and the largest fish known to have lived on this planet.
  • Scientific Name: Rhincodon typus
  • They feed on plankton and travel large distances to find enough food to sustain their huge size, and to reproduce.
  • They are one of only three species of filter feeding sharks.
  • Distribution: They can be found in all temperate and tropical oceans around the world, except the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Features:
    • It is a large fish that can grow up to 60 feet long, though most specimens reach about 40 feet in length and weigh about 15 tons. 
    • They are dark gray on top and light underneath, with a series of light spots or stripes covering the dark parts of their bodies. This helps to camouflage them as they swim.
    • Unlike most shark species, its mouth is located at the front of the head (terminal) instead of the underside of the rostrum (subterminal).
    • Filter Feeders:
      • They are filter feeders and can neither bite nor chew. They can process more than 6,000 litres of water an hour through their gills. 
      • Inside the mouth are specialized flaps called velums. These stop the backflow of water as the whale shark closes its mouth, preventing the loss of food.
    • The whale shark also eats small and large fish and mollusks, including sardines, anchovies, mackerels, squid, and even small tuna and albacore.
  • Conservation Status:
    • IUCN: Endangered


Q1) What are filter feeders?

Filter feeders are animals that get their food by moving water through a structure that acts as a sieve.Some filter feeders are sessile organisms - they don't move much, if at all.Some filter feeders are free-swimming organisms who filter the water while swimming or even actively pursue their prey. Examples of these filter feeders are basking sharks, whale sharks, and baleen whales. 

Source: Whale sharks spotted off East Coast Road