The whale shark (Rhincodon typus), is a slow filter feeding animal that feed by straining suspended matter and food particles from water. Whale shark is the biggest living fish species, coming to up to 18 meters long. Whale sharks are very common in Maldives, specially in Ari (Maamigili Kadhu) and Baa Atoll (Hanifaru Bay). There is a good chance of seeing a whale shark while you are travelling too. Here is a whale shark we found on our way to Hanifaru bay.
They are dim grey in colour fading to paler undersides and have a white spotted pattern. As a filter feeder, it has a large mouth which can be up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) wide and can contain between 300 – 350 rows of small tiny teeth. It has five huge pair of gills. Two little eyes are found towards the front of the sharks wide, flat head.
The Whale shark's skin can be up to 10 centimetres (3.9 inches) thick. The shark has a pair each of dorsal fins and pectoral fins. A young whale sharks tail has a bigger upper fin than lower fin. the grown-up adult tail becomes semi-lunate.
The whale shark is not an effective swimmer since the whole body is utilized for swimming, which is bizarre for fish and contributes to average speed of just around 5 kilometers for every hour (3.1 miles for each hour).
The whale shark is believed to have begun around 60 million years ago The name 'whale shark' originates from the fish's physiology; that is, a shark as large as a whale that shares a similar filter feeder eating method.
The whale shark are rarely found in groups unless feeding area is full of foods. Male whale sharks range over longer distance than females (which appear to favour particular areas).
Maldives whale shark research program (MWSRP) began in 2006. This program has grown to become the only long term organisation dedicated to study the iconic yet vulnerable whale shark species in Maldives.