The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the biggest fish in the sea. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 12.65 meters and a weight of about 21.5 tonnes. The whale shark holds many records for sheer size in the animal kingdom, most notably being by far the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate. It is the sole member of the genus Rhincodon and the only extant member of the family, Rhincodontidae, which belongs to the subclass Elasmobranchii in the class Chondrichthyes. The species originated about 60 million years ago.
Historically, very little data on whale sharks has ever been collected because it was not considered commercially viable. In recent years this status has changed with the increasing demand for shark products from the Asian market. There are increasing reports of whale sharks being taken for their fins as other species of shark become less abundant. The whale shark is currently classed as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN. Yet scientists still know very little about its life and habits. Find out what we do know about this amazing and docile animal in this infographic – and learn why it’s threatened and how we can all take part in the solution.
Infographic Credit: One World One Ocean Campaign by MacGillivray Freeman Films