It’s the size of a whale but it’s actually
the world’s largest fish! I’m Jonathan Bird and this is shark academy! Well as shark experts of course you all know
that sharks are fish. The whale shark is not only the world’s largest shark…it’s the
world’s largest fish, and it’s called a whale shark because it’s the size of a whale. It’s
not a whale. It’s not related to whales. Whales breath air. They are mammals. Sharks are fish.
So the whale shark is a fish the size of a whale. The whale shark is really big! We’re talking:
they reach fifty feet long. That’s the length of two school buses end to end. So this is
a very very large fish. How does it get so big? Well, it eats a lot. But you might be
surprised what it eats. Whale sharks survive almost exclusively on plankton and small fish.
A whale shark feeds by swimming through the water with its mouth wide open, scooping in
vast quantities of water. The water goes into the back of the throat and it goes back out
through the gills. But on the gills are little combs called gill rakers and they’re filters.
What happens is the plankton gets stuck in the filters when the water goes through and
then every once in a while the shark closes his mouth and swallows all the plankton down.
So the whale shark is completely harmless to people, even if a person went into its
mouth, it wouldn’t be able to swallow you because it only has a throat about this big.
The throat is designed for swallowing small things, little fish, plankton, not people.
Completely harmless to people. The only way a whale shark could hurt you
is if someone dropped one on you, or maybe if it hit you with its tail. But I don’t know
anybody stupid enough to get hit with the tail of a whale shark. One of the most interesting characteristics
of the whale shark is its skin pattern. It has sort of a polka-dotted stripey pattern
that almost looks like dominoes. In fact in some countries they’re called the Domino shark.
Nobody’s quite sure what this coloration pattern is for, the best guess is that it helps with
that dappling of light near the surface, it almost helps create a sort of camouflage on
their back. But why would they need camouflage, are they sneaking up on the plankton? Nobody
really knows. So since the whale shark is so humongous,
you would expect that it would have a pretty large babies. Actually it doesn’t. The pups
are born only about a foot long. Because they’re so small the female can give birth to over
three hundred pups at a time. A female whale shark can’t produce babies until she’s thirty
years old, so it takes a long time for all those pups to grow up. So even though the
whale shark has a lot of pups, they’re still vulnerable to over-fishing. If you want to learn more about whale sharks,
check out the link below, my adventure filming whale sharks in Mexico! If you’re on Facebook
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button! Until next time, I’m Jonathan Bird and this is Shark Academy!