Fab Photos Friday: The Biggest Fish in the Ocean

Andrea took this awesome photo of me with the Whale Shark!

Field scientist Dr. Andrea Marshall took this awesome photo of me with the Whale Shark!

The incredible Whale Shark is the biggest fish in the ocean! And it is such a beautiful, gentle fish! It has to be said that whale sharks probably don’t have Einstein’s IQ since they have the smallest brain in the ocean for their size, but give them a break …they help keep plankton and krill under control, which is necessary for our oceans and for life on earth. I just returned from the Yucatan peninsula where possibly the largest aggregation of whale sharks occurs, and it was a spectacular trip. Here are some Whale Shark Facts along with the photographs I took!

1. The largest fish in the ocean can grow up to 65 feet and 75,000 pounds. They are as large as many whales, and as big as, or bigger than, a city bus!

I took this photo of the vertical, pregnant whale shark and our Kiwi!

I took this photo of the vertical, pregnant whale shark and our Kiwi!

2.  The largest fish in the ocean eats the smallest creatures in the ocean: tiny plankton, small fishes, and small crustaceans. They are filter feeders, they gulp the sea water through their gills, and when the water is pushed out, prey gets stuck to their gill plates. Yum!

Andrea photographing.

Photographing and swimming with Whale Sharks.

3.  Whale Sharks are sharks and do not have bones, but cartilage. Cartilage does not fossilize as well as bones do, so there is not a huge fossil record of sharks. Most of what we know of ancient sharks come from their teeth.

This lousy photo gives you a sense of the scale of these animals!

This lousy photo gives you a sense of the scale of these animals!

4.  Female Whale Sharks are bigger than the males and are found in all warm oceans: Pacific, Indian and Atlantic.

Two feeding sharks

Two feeding sharks..the white dots and scatter is food! Tuna spawn draws the Whale Sharks to the Yucatan every year.

5.  Whale Sharks are gentle creatures and one can swim right next to the animal with no fear.

This is the big gulp!!!

This is the big gulp!!!

6.  Each whale shark has a unique spot pattern from it’s gill to over the pectoral fins. When swimming with whale sharks, it is best to take ID photos to upload into a scientific database like www.whaleshark.org.

Here is a Whale Shark ID shot.

Here is a Whale Shark ID shot.

7. Thanks to tagging and ID photographs much more is now known about Whale Sharks compared to 10 years ago. We know they migrate thousands of miles to opportunistically feed…Mexico is a hotspot, particularly the Yucatan where tuna spawn in the summer. The whale shark may live up to 100 years!

8.  It is not common to see pregnant females like the one pictured here. Much of the time one sees juvenile males. A female whale shark has been known to hold 300 fetuses. It is possible that female whale sharks may “save sperm” in order to fertilize their own eggs as they are made, but more study needs to be completed in order to know for certain.

Feeding Series. This is the first shot I took.

Feeding Series. This is the first shot I took of this glorious pregnant female!

Feeding series 2. I swam in front of the shark to get a shot and she buttoned up.

Feeding series 2. I swam in front of the shark to get a shot and she buttoned up! Proof that she knows I am not food.

Feeding series 3. She opened back up when I reached her other side.

Feeding series 3. She opened back up when I reached her other side.

9.  Sadly, the Whale Shark is “vulnerable” according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List. Whale Sharks are protected in most areas of the world but are still killed for their fins (for shark fin soup).  Sharks are very toxic to humans so they are not a good food source, and humans have been very toxic toward sharks since we are responsible for the deaths of 75 to 100 million sharks a year.

Fin and Andrea

Swimming.

 

What a beautiful animal.

What a beautiful animal.

If you wish to learn more about these fascinating sharks, check out www.marinemegafauna.org. Marine Megafauna Foundation studies large pelagic species in order to understand their ecology and protect them from illegal fishing practices. You can even adopt a shark, manta ray, or sea turtle! The proceeds go toward scientific study of the animals for conservation purposes. Marine Megafauna also offers expeditions (like the one I was just on in the Yucatan) in order to assist scientists by performing citizen science. We are all responsible for the condition of our planet, and we all need to contribute in some way. If you’d like to learn more about sharks and the state of our oceans, I recommend going to www.sharkwater.com and seeing the documentaries of Rob Stewart, or checking the BBC or Discovery Channel.

Fin

Fin

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About the Author ()

I am an avid scuba diver, underwater photographer, amateur historian; interested in all people and cultures. For me, the unexpected is usually the norm! My motto? I am an Empty Nester who likes to Renew, Revamp, and Reinvent Life! Contact me at travelswithtam@gmail.com

Comments (8)

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  1. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Gorgeous photos again, Tam. Just lovely. 300 fetuses, huh? Ouch!

  2. You need to put together a book of your photos. They’re breathtaking. And I always learn so much from your posts!
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  3. Kim Acedo says:

    Holy Cow that’s a BIG FISH! Awesome!!

  4. I have to admit that fish would scary the crap out of me. Some great underwater shots, though, on another great adventure.

    • Tam Warner says:

      Thank you! That fish is completely harmless, guaranteed. Unless you are dumb enough to get hit by its tail. But you probably wouldn’t get that close to it!

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