Wildlife Fact Sheets

Whale Shark

Whale Shark

Whale Shark

Rhincodon typus

  • Life Span
    Up to 150 years.
  • Habitat
    Tropical and warm temperate seas
  • Range
    I’m most commonly observed off the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Thailand, South America and Western Australia.
  • Preferred Food
    Plankton, squid, krill and small fish


Tropical climates and warm water are my favorite places to be! You will rarely see me close to shore in shallow water, as I spend most of my time around 150 feet below the surface (that’s equivalent to the width of an American football field). On the rare occasion that I do come near the surface, I am really hard to miss! If you haven’t heard by now—I am the biggest fish in the world and can grow up to 40 feet long and weigh up to 20,000 pounds. That is as tall as two giraffes stacked on top of each other and the weight of two elephants combined! My mouth is three feet wide and holds over 350 rows of teeth.

Don’t be alarmed if you ever come into contact with me—I’m not going to hurt you! I’m a gentle giant. I sometimes even get help from remoras and pilot fish, who help me stay clean by removing parasites and bacteria from my large body. Parasites use me as a food source and usually aren’t harmful but can sometimes become a nuisance. Be careful to steer clear of my tail—it is extremely powerful and could hurt you.

Did You Know?

My spotted pattern is unlike those of my friends. We all have unique markings, just like a human fingerprint. The spots can be white, yellow and gray, and are displayed in a checkerboard pattern.

Another cool thing about me is that I have a sixth sense. The scientific name for this sense is the Ampullae of Lorenzini, which means that I can sense electromagnetic fields emitted by other animals.

Sometimes my name confuses people—am I a whale or a shark? Let me clear this up for you, once and for all: I am a shark, meaning I am a fish, not a mammal, the classification of whales. As a shark, I’m very closely related to the bottom-dwelling shark, the wobbegong. Try saying that name five times fast!

Status and Conservation

I generally enjoy roaming the ocean alone. However, if there is an area with an abundant amount of plankton, my favorite food, a group of my friends and I will hang out together and filter feed. To filter feed, I swim through the water with my mouth open and suck out nutrients and plankton that are suspended in the water. In addition to plankton, I love munching on squid, krill and small fish.

Fast Facts


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