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The Whale Shark

The Whale Shark

Nora de Rege

on 15 May 2014

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Transcript of The Whale Shark

Common and Scientific Names
The Whale Shark
By Nora de Rege Class 626
The whale shark's scientific name is rhincodon typus. Rhincodon typus means a large spotted shark of warm surface waters worldwide; it looks like a whale and feeds mainly on plankton.
Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Chordata
Sub Phylum: Vertebrata (vertebrates)
Class: Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish)
Subclass: Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays)
Order: Orectolobiformes
Family: Rhincodontidae
Genus: Rhincodon
Species: typus
A whale shark is 18 to 40 or more feet long
The longest whale shark ever measured was 40 feet. However, the species is thought to grow bigger.
It weighs about 20.6 tons.
They have large gaping mouths that can open up to almost five feet.
It has two small eyes located towards the front of the head.
It is mostly grey with a white belly. The skin is marked with lots of spots and stripes and these stripes are unique to each whale shark so they can be used to recognize each different whale shark and so they can blend into their surroundings.
Three ridges go along on the side of each animal and there are five large pairs of gills.
It has two dorsal fins that are on its back and two pectoral fins that are on its sides on its body, which ends in a large tail that has a top tail that is larger than the lower fin
. Even though they have about 3000 tiny teeth that are .6 centimeters long, they are not used while eating.
Its skin is up to four inches thick.
The whale shark's flattened head sports a blunt snout above its mouth.
Whale sharks swim slowly, going no more than three miles per hour.
They swim by moving their entire bodies from side to side, not just their tails.
It is slow but being slow doesn't always help them. Because they are slow, boats can hit them and injure them.
Whale sharks are filter feeders.
They eat mostly krill.
It is one of only three known filter feeding shark species.
It feeds on macro-algae, plankton, krill, Christmas Island red crab larvae, and small nektonic life such as small squid or vertebrates.
It also feeds on small fish and the clouds of eggs and sperm during mass spawning of fish shoals.
The many rows of teeth play no role in feeding.
Feeding occurs either by "ram filtration", in which the animal opens its mouth and swims forward, pushing water and food into the mouth, or by suction feeding, in which the animal opens and closes its mouth, sucking in water that are then ejected through the gills.
In both cases, the filter pads serve to separate food from water.
Whale sharks prefer warm water so they live in all of the tropical seas.
They migrate every spring to the continental shelf of the central west coast of Australia.
The coral spawning of the area's Ningaloo Reef provides the whale shark with an plentiful supply of plankton.
Seasonal feeding places occur at several coastal places such as the southern and eastern parts of South Africa; Gladden Spit in Belize; Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia and lots of other warm water places.
Although it is usually seen offshore, it has been found closer to land.
A whale sharks range is usually restricted to about +30 degrees latitude.
It can dive up to depths of at least 4200 feet.
Behavior and Adaptations
Whale sharks swim so they need gills to be underwater.
They migrate to the central west coast of Australia where, in the spring, they gather together for their seasonal feeding season.
Whale sharks are docile creatures. Even though they look threatening, they won't hurt humans.
They don't even hunt marine mammals.
In some cases, the whale shark has even said to have been friendly and playful with divers and may even let a diver have a ride.
Whale sharks are solitary creatures and are rarely have been seen in groups except when they gather together for their seasonal feeding.
Life Cycle/Reproduction
It was once believed that the whale sharks reproduces like other fish, that is they are oviparous.
This would involve a female whale shark laying the eggs and the male shark fertilized them.
We now know that a female keeps her eggs inside her body until the babies are ready to be born. That is called viviparous.
A whale shark may have thousands of eggs inside of her but not every egg will become an embryo. Some eggs actually are food for the other eggs that develop into embryos.
The whale sharks that are born are called pups.
The pups are over two feet long when they are born.
Maturity in whale sharks doesn't occur until they reach about 29 feet. That means that whale sharks reproduction maturity age is about 30 years old. They live for about 60-100 years.
Defense\ Offense
Whale sharks don't attack other animals because they are filter feeders.
Their huge size and their skin ,which is four inches thick, protects them.
Whale sharks are apex predators.
Their only real threat is humans and boats.
They are slow and they swim next to boats and then the boats hit them and they get injured.
When whale sharks are pups, they are eaten by killer whales, but when they get older, they aren't eaten by anything.
They are predators, prey when they are younger, and consumers.
Fun Facts
Even though they are called whale sharks, they aren't whales but they are mistaken for whales because of their size.
Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the world.
Even though whale sharks have 3000 tiny teeth, they don't use them.
Even though whale sharks are large, they are harmless.
Survival Status
Whale sharks are vulnerable.
They are killed by boats and are often targeted by commercial fisheries when they seasonally get in groups.
In many places, it was banned to hunt, sell, and import whale sharks.
However, they are still hunted in some parts of Asia .
The Whale Shark: Gentle Giant (Sharks: Hunters of the Deep) by Joanne Randolph
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