Whale Sharks

Image: Brian Skerry, Smithsonian Magazine.

Check out the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, which can reach lengths of more than 45 feet! These fish were featured in a recent article from Smithsonian Magazine. You would think the diver would be afraid of being eaten by the “shark”, but it turns out these filter-feeders prefer zooplankton, which is how they got their name. Look, no teeth:


How is it the largest animals seem to thrive off the smallest creatures? By eating all day. In fact, a recent study of these animals shows that they spend 7.5 hours per day feeding on the tiny creatures. By their calculations, a 443cm whale shark could eat 1467g of plankton per hour.

I once had a dog that ate all day like that. We called him Hoover.

Motta PJ, Maslanka M, Hueter RE, Davis RL, de la Parra R, Mulvany SL, Habegger ML, Strother JA, Mara KR, Gardiner JM, Tyminski JP, Zeigler LD. Feeding anatomy, filter-feeding rate, and diet of whale sharks Rhincodon typus during surface ram filter feeding off the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Zoology(Jena). 2010 Aug;113(4):199-212.


  1. #1 oldebabe
    June 14, 2011

    Thanks. Too interesting. Who knew creatures (earthly)could eat non-stop (i.e. your dog, not the shark)?

  2. #2 Jeffrey
    June 14, 2011

    It’s pretty amazing that they can get that much food.

  3. #3 Mindy Simon
    June 15, 2011

    These pictures are amazing, and remind me of our trip to Mexico we took last summer. If even in the Cancun or Playa del Carmen area of the Riviera Maya during May through September, you can swim with whale sharks by taking an organized tour.

    Swim Safely,
    Mindy S.

  4. #4 Hilda De Bruyn
    April 9, 2015

    Wow, these are really big fish! How long do they live?