To the question “What is the largest fish in the world?” Most people will answer: a blue whale or a white shark. These statements are incorrect, because in the first place, the whale is not a fish at all, but mammals (which are often forgotten), and the second option is only correct by half, since there is a much larger representative – the whale shark – in the family of sharks. It is actually the largest in the world.
Often, the sizes exceed 10-14 meters, very rarely there are individuals up to 20 meters in length.
Dwell whale sharks in warm tropical waters of the World Ocean. Most of his life is spent in small flocks. In places of abundance of food, flocks gather in hundreds of heads.
Despite its huge size and formidable appearance, it is completely harmless to humans. The whale shark feeds mainly on plankton, filtering it through the gills, sometimes swallowing small fish and jellyfish. During feeding, the whale shark in an hour passes through the gills 6,000 cubic meters of water.
The nature of the shark is calm and slow. Floats with a speed of no more than 5 km / h. Completely calm whale sharks refer to divers who can pat them, and even ride on their backs, holding on to the fin.
The number of sharks of this species has always been small. But recently due to uncontrolled poaching catch, their number has started to decline rapidly. The population of South and South-East Asia consume the meat of the whale shark for food, even despite the complete ban on fishing for sharks. According to approximate calculations around the world there are about 1000 individuals.
Despite the calm burrow of whale sharks, this species is very poorly studied. This is due to the huge size of sharks and with difficulties in transportation, as well as their small number.
A whale shark is difficult to be confused with other species. It is distinguished not only by the dimensions, but also by the structure of the organism. Not a swivel and fat body, a relatively small head and a flattened muzzle. The skin of adult fish reaches 10 cm in thickness. The mouth of whale sharks is wide and located at the end of the muzzle, and not under it, as in other species. A 13 meter long shark has a mouth about 1.5 meters in diameter. The eyes are small and located almost on the edge of the muzzle, it is interesting that they can not blink these fish in principle, however they can still close their eyes, pulling them into orbit and covering with a thick leathery fold.
The mouth of the whale shark is a real meat grinder, only it is intended for grinding an already tiny prey. The number of teeth can exceed 10 000, which are arranged in rows (up to 300 rows) on the upper and lower jaws. But the size of the teeth is quite small – a maximum of 4-6 millimeters in the largest representatives.