About Whale Sharks

Whale Shark Facts

  • Despite their size, whale sharks are not whales – they are sharks and the largest fish in the sea
  • Whale sharks grow up to 18 meters in length
  • Whale sharks have a flat broad head and mouth which can up to be a metre wide
  • Their skin is a mottled grey colour covered in hundreds of dots. Some people think that they resemble an an Aboriginal dot painting
  • A whale shark’s skin is rough like sandpaper and very thick to protect them from cuts and wounds
  • They are completely harmless and feed only on plankton
  • Planktonic matter lives in the seawater and becomes concentrated around Ningaloo Reef following the coral spawning in March and April
  • To feed, whale sharks open their mouths wide and allow the water to be channeled through their gills.
  • Whale shark’s gills are lined with hundreds of tiny teeth called gill rakers, which collect up the plankton and allow the water to pass back out
  • Sharks in general, whale sharks included, have very slow growth rates, are late to mature and have a low fecundity (birth rate), which makes them very susceptible to overfishing.
  • Mature whale sharks have few natural predators – their biggest threat is HUMANS!