Of all the sharks out there, the whale shark is probably one of the least typical ones. Sharks have been swimming the oceans for millions of years and some have attracted a lot of human attention over the last few millennia. However, shark attacks get a lot more attention than they deserve, all things considered – furthermore, virtually none of these involve the whale shark.
The reason – these do not prey on humans or anything near our size. These guys feed on plankton and small squid, much like most of the whales, which is where the similarities diminish exponentially. For one, the whale shark is still a shark, with gills so it never has to surface in order to catch its breath, and it is not even a mammal. The mostly docile behavior, however, is something that these sharks share with the majority of whales.
Not even Steven Spielberg could make these sharks look frightening. In fact, due to their peaceful nature, many divers have started an unusual practice where they would find a whale shark, grab its fin and “hitch a ride” for a few meters. While this does not cause pain to the shark and the practice seems relatively harmless, it is still strongly discouraged by the experts, as this certainly interferes with the regular activities of the shark. Also, playing with sharks is never a good idea, regardless of the circumstances.
If you were looking to see one of these in captivity, you are either incredibly lucky or you have a long journey ahead of you. Only a handful are being kept in captivity. Most of the captured specimens are in Japan or China, but at least they are safer than the majority of their species on the open seas. These mysterious creatures have drawn a lot of attention from the experts over the years, as despite the fact that these sharks can be found from Brazil to Australia and back, scientists did not know how these guys reproduce until 1995. Even then, mating has never been officially recorded and only sharks that are already pregnant have been spotted.
While technically considered an endangered species, the exact population of these creatures has never been established, so the exact level cannot be ascertained at this point. Each whale shark has a unique pattern of white spots on its back, so most researchers who dabbled in this issue can tell individual specimens apart, thanks to this feature. However, until they know more, the fate of this majestic creatures will be unknown.
If you want to know more about this wonderful creatures join Whale Shark Ningaloo for a tour.