Body Characteristics

1. Coloration Adult whale sharks’ skin is up to 4 inches (10 cm) thick. There are 3 prominent ridges running along each side of the shark's body. Whale Sharks’ belly is whitebut back and side surface is grayish, bluish or brownish, with light yellow dotsbetween pale, vertical and horizontal stripes (random dots and stripes). The dotted skin is like a starry sky, believed to be unique to each individual similar to human fingerprints. Scientists call the coloration could be camouflage; the pattern resembles a school of fish. Another possibility is reflection of sunlight on a shallow reef.


Whale Shark Body Ref : SAMPAN Project, Oct 2013

2. Head Whale sharks have a big flattened head and the snout is round. 3. Mouth Whale sharks have a huge mouth which can be up to 4 feet (1.4 m) wide, in the process of feeding, it can possibly extend two or three times that width. Its mouth is at the tip of the snout (not on the underside of the head like in most sharks). 4. Eyes Whale sharks have 2 small eyes which located towards the front. It is the size of a golf ball, situated on either side of the head. 5. Spiracle The spiracle chamber is a vestigial first gill slit used for breathing. It is located just behind the shark's eye. 6. Teeth  The original name “Rhinodonte” means "rasp tooth." Whale shark has 3,000 teeth in 11 to 12 rows in its jaws. Each tooth is only 3 mm in length. They play little use in feeding. They may be used only in processing larger food items, such as small tuna and mackerel that are occasionally captured and cannot pass through the whale shark's gullet. 7. Gill Whale Sharks have 5 pairs of gill slits. 8. Fins Whale sharks have 2 dorsal fins (on its back) and 2 pectoral fins (on its sides). The first dorsal fin is much larger than the second dorsal fin, and set rearward on body. The caudal fin (tail) is semi-lunate in adults; in small juveniles the upper lobe is considerably longer than the lower lobe. 9. Nasal slits & Smell Whale sharks are bottom-dwelling sharks. They have twin nasal slits and sensory barbells in front of their blunt snout on the upper surface above the mouth. The barbells augment the ampullae of lorenzini and signal the location of prey, guiding the sharks's feeding. 10. Size Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world. Their length is up to 20 metres and weight is up to 20 tons. Females are larger than males (like most sharks). In spite of their gargantuan size, whale sharks are fairly docile; the main risk comes from getting in the way of their very large and powerful tails.