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Shark Gifts

Well-known species such as the great white shark, tiger shark, and the hammerhead are apex predators, at the top of the underwater food chain. Their extraordinary skills as predators fascinate and frighten humans, even as their survival is under serious threat from fishing and other human activities.

Whale Sharks

The whale shark is a species of slow-moving shark that can be found in all warm-temperate and tropical seas. More specifically, it inhabits the pelagic zone, or any area of the sea that is close to neither the shore nor the ocean's floor. However, the whale shark seasonally ventures to coastal regions to feed.

It is believed that, on average, the whale shark lives for 70 to 100 years.The whale shark reaches sexual maturity at around 30 years of age. After a female whale shark becomes pregnant, it gives birth to about 300 live pups gradually over an extended period of time.

As its name indicates, the whale shark is the largest known fish that lives today. They typically measure around 40 feet in length, but many unconfirmed reports suggest the existence of larger whale sharks. The average weight of the whale shark is even more impressive; a typical whale shark weighs over 47,000 pounds.

Despite their great size, whale sharks are not predators; their teeth, of which they have 300 to 350 rows, are small, and they rely on filter-feeding for sustenance. This attribute makes the whale shark one of only three filter-feeding shark species. Due to its means of eating, the whale shark's diet consists mostly of plankton, algae, krill, crab larvae, as well as small animals such as squid.

The whale shark is not only simply not a predator, but somewhat of a gentle giant. The whale shark is docile in nature, and tends to behave peacefully towards humans. Some whale sharks have even permitted human divers to "catch a ride" by grabbing onto them, though experts advise against encouraging this behavior. Because of their less massive size, young whale sharks tend to be very gentle, and are often inclined to play with divers.

The whale shark has been valued by numerous human cultures. A testament to this statement is that an image of a whale shark is featured on the back of the 100 Philippine peso bill. The whale shark is even regarded as a deity in Vietnamese culture. Less dramatically, they have also captured the attention of many humans by serving as major attractions in marine parks.

Unfortunately, whale sharks face a danger from humans. Several commercial fisheries target them, a practice that contributes to their status as a vulnerable species, the label given to species that risk becoming endangered. Other human activities such as the use of marine life in amusement parks and especially environmental damages such as oil spills also pose a potential threat to the whale shark population.

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Shark Gifts




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