Did you know that Whale Sharks both eat plankton by filter feeding and suck in larger fish – actively and not only accidentally?
The whale shark is the largest fish species – up to the size of a bus. It is one of only 3 shark species that shifted from predatory to filter feeding around 30 to 60 million years ago (ancient sharks have been existed for 425 million years).
Whale sharks live up to 100 years and reach sexual maturity at around 30 years. They migrate – to feed and to come back to their own nursing grounds. One tagged whale shark traveled 13,000 km during 37 months.
They are listed as a vulnerable species (EDIT: since 2016 as endangered) and are protected in several countries, but continue to be hunted legally and illegally in parts of Asia, such as Taiwan (where they are named “tofu shark” due to their soft delicate meat) and China (where their big fins are considered a great eye catcher in restaurants).
Ecotourism industries based on viewing and diving with whale sharks generate at least US$47.5 million annually worldwide, more than their meat could ever bring in. But there are risks, as well.
PS I hope that the Georgia Aquarium, source of the linked post, didn’t pointed out the risks of whale watching boats to motivate people to watch their whale sharks in captive instead and thus sell more tickets. It is really difficult to know who to trust when it comes to money…