Swimming with the whale sharks was one of the scariest things that I have done. Whale sharks are not harmful so there is nothing to worry about when swimming with them. However, it’s different up close! A butanding’s mouth is significantly huge and is always open to suck in food– thankfully, they are not interested in taking a bite of humans.
Know more about these gentle giants with these fun facts!
They can grow up to 40 ft. long
That’s the size of a school bus! A newborn whale shark can be around 15-25 inches long and eventually grows after feeding on smaller fish. They can grow up to 40 ft. long!
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world
Indeed, a bus-sized fish in the ocean deserves the title as the biggest fish in the world. As mentioned, they can grow up to 40 ft. in length.
Whale sharks are not whales
Ever wondered why they are called “whale sharks”? Whale sharks are as big, or even bigger than some whales, and they eat like baleen whales, too. That’s how they got the name “whale shark”. This is also why they are called the largest fish in the world because they are sharks and not whales.
They have about 3,000 teeth
Don’t freak out! They do have teeth and they are more than you could ever imagine. However, these teeth are tiny and are usually useless. They don’t munch on their food as most animals do.
They almost never use their teeth to eat
Whale sharks are suckers. They are filter feeders. This means that they eat by sucking in a plentiful amount of water in its mouth, closes it and filters out their choice of food by releasing the water through the gills.
Gentle giants don’t eat humans
They may be gigantic, but they are gentle to humans. This is also one reason why we can swim with them in the sea. Also, they only feed on smaller fish and planktons and maybe some shrimps, especially here in Cebu where fishermen feed them shrimps to keep the tourism in the area alive.
Physical contact with the sharks may harm them
Did you know that physical contact (humans swimming with them) can harm them? Whale sharks are covered with mucus, a form of protection from bacteria, parasites, and toxins. Some feed their baby sharks through their mucus. If they gain physical contact with other creatures or with us, from touching them, their protection loses its ability to keep the animal safer. So just swim with them side by side but never touch them. If possible, don’t swim with them. Plain viewing is recommended.
They migrate a lot
Why they often migrate remains a mystery but one reason could be the abundance of food (plankton). It is also unsure if these giants prefer cooler or warmer temperatures. Some say they like cool water temperatures better some say otherwise.
Their life span is 40 to 100 years
A whale shark’s sexual maturity is about 30 years in the making. They can live up to 70 to 100 years, longer than human lives.