Unknown. The whale shark is considered vulnerable by the IUCN.
Ways to identify this species:
Whale sharks are grayish-brown with a white underbelly and white spots and lines. This species is the largest fish in the world measuring 20 - 55 feet in length. Whale sharks are usually seen in the open water.
- Believed to have originated 60 million years ago, whale sharks are found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide at depths up to 100 feet.
- This species is a filter feeder and sieves plankton through its gills as it swims. It also feeds on fish, squid, and pelagic crustaceans by opening its huge mouth.
- Whale sharks have 5 large gill slits and the first gill slit (spiracle), which is used for breathing when the shark is resting on the sea floor, is located directly behind the shark's eye.
- This species can weigh up to 15 tons, and like most sharks, females are larger than males.
- Whale sharks have about 3,000 tiny teeth, which are of little use.
- This shark can process >1,500 gallons of water each hour.
- Whale sharks are solitary species but at 30 years they begin mating.
- This shark can live to an age of 100 - 150 years.
- It is thought that the most significant threat to whale sharks is habitat loss or degradation in the form of overfishing of reef fish, coastal development, land-based pollution, increased boat traffic and noise pollution.
- Fishing for meat and fins, harassment and boat strikes also pose serious threats to whale sharks.
- Although whale sharks are protected under CITES, in some areas fisheries remain and continue to carry high prices.