Rhincodon typus

Habitat: Whale sharks typically are found in the open ocean.

Average adult size: Adults can grow to be 45 feet long.

Natural history: Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea. They usually are found swimming slowly near the surface. Whale sharks have a broad flat head with white spots and lines on their back. Whale sharks have a huge mouth, lined with tiny teeth. They are harmless filter-feeders, straining the water for plankton and small schooling fishes. When whale sharks feed they sometimes stop swimming to do a "tail-stand." Vertical in the water, they open their mouths, gulping down clouds of krill and small fishes. Scientists are not exactly sure how whale sharks give birth. It has never actually been seen. A single egg case was dredged up from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. It was a foot long and had a 14-inch baby shark inside. Sixteen of these egg cases have been found inside a pregnant female. The whale shark is so big it can be its own moving reef. They often are found covered with clouds of small jacks and pilotfish along for the ride.

Range: In all tropical and warm, temperate oceans of the world.

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