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Whale Sharks

whale shark

Fast Facts..
Exmouth has one of the most developed Whale Shark Industries
in the WORLD! The NINGALOO REEF is the only place in Australia you can swim with WHALESHARKS! Whale Sharks are in Exmouth from April to July

About Whale Sharks...
Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the ocean. A fully-grown Whale Shark can reach up to 18m in length. Whale Sharks encountered on the Ningaloo Reef are most commonly between 4-12m long. A male Whale Shark is sexually mature at about 8.5m in length.

Whale Sharks can weigh up to 15 tonnes and have mouths over a metre wide. Yet they survive by filtering zooplankton such as copepods and krill through thousands of tiny teeth arranged in 300 rows located in their gills. These are known as gill rakers.

Whale Sharks are found in warm temperate seas between the latitudes 30 degrees north and 35 degrees south. The seasonal aggregation of Whale Sharks in the Ningaloo Marine Park is linked with an increase in the productivity of the ocean around the time of the mass coral spawning in March/April each year. Ningaloo Reef is one of the few places in the world where Whale Sharks appear regularly in numbers.

Very little is known about the breeding cycle and mating habits of Whale Sharks. Whale Sharks however do have internal fertilization and produce live young. Males can be distinguished by the presence of two claspers near the pelvic fin. These are absent on female sharks.

Whale Sharks are fish and obtain their oxygen by filtering sea water through their gills. They do not need to come to the surface to breathe. It is believed that they come to the surface to feed but their feeding habits and normal behaviour remain a mystery. At the first sign of danger Whale Sharks will dive for the bottom. They have been known to dive to depths of 700m.

Whale Sharks have 5 gill slits, 2 dorsal fins, an anal fin, a very wide mouth, small eyes and a spiracle, which is a round hole behind the eyes.. Whale Sharks are closely related to bottom-dwelling sharks such as the Wobbegong Shark, there scientific name is Rhincondon typus.

The skin on the back of the Whale Shark is about 7cm thick. It provides the Whale Shark with protection and it will always bank towards the swimmers when threatened to protect its relatively soft under belly. The pattern of lines and spots seen on a Whale Shark helps them to blend into their oceanic surroundings. These unique patterns can be used to identify individual sharks.

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