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Shark Gallery 3 - Big Boys


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Whale Shark

Whale Shark

Rhincodon typus

Rhincodonitiae: Whale Sharks

Whale Shark

Photo Courtesy of: Boattalk.com (no longer online)

Truly a beautiful creature to behold, the whale shark is a gentle giant of the seas. Despite his massive size he is a harmless shark, feeding mainly on crustacean plankton, small fishes like sardines and anchovies as well as some larger fish such as mackerel. Whale Sharks are the world's largest living fish. They can reach lengths in excess of 46 feet (14 meters). Whale Sharks have a narrow mouth. It stretches across the entire width of their flattened head, with small eyes which are located far forward. Their nostrils each have a small barbel. Long gill slits extend above their pectoral fins. The Whale Shark is a slow swimmer who swims near the surface where he consumes his food.

Whale Sharks are found day and night seasonally in some areas while quite common in others year round. They are considered to be harmless and can often be found where divers and snorkelers can swim along with them. They are curious creatures as well as gentle.

Interesting fact... Whale Sharks have internal spongy filters at the gill arches that help them to retain their small pray in such huge mouths.

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Basking Shark

Sun Fish

Cetorhinus maximus

Cetorhinidae: Basking Shark

Basking Shark
Photo Courtesy of: Boattalk.com (no longer online)

The Basking Shark is the second largest fish in the world and is also a plankton eater like the Whale Shark. They can grow to lengths between 30 - 35 feet. Swimming with their huge mouths gaping, they strain approximately 1,500 gallons of water an hour through
their 5 pairs of gill slits. Inside their massive mouths they have gill rakers which are bristly structures that trap small organisms that it consumes.

Their gill slits extend around the top and bottom of their head. They have an almost comical short, cone-shaped snout which along with it's massive size makes it easily recognizable. Basking Sharks are frequent visitors to both cold and warm temperate waters, taking advantage of plankton blooms in coastal regions. They also enter large
bays in order to feed. They are easily seen swimming slowly near the surface of the water close to the shore.

Unfortunately, Basking Sharks are regionally fished by commercial fisheries, due to a demand for their flesh and large liver. Little is known about their reproduction, but females are thought to reach sexual maturity when they are about 13 - 16 feet in length and that they are live bearers. Even though I call the Basking Shark a "Gentle Giant" they are considered to be possibly dangerous, but only if attacked.

Interesting fact... Basking Sharks have earned the nickname of "Sun Fish" because of the way it spends most of it's time near the surface of the ocean water.

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Megachasma pelagios

Magachasmidae: Megamouth Sharks

Megamouth Shark
Photograph courtesy of: Tom Haight - Ocean Images

Aptly named, the Megamouth is another of the gentle giants of the sea. It's scientific
name is from the Greek meaning: "Giant yawner of the open sea." This description is due
to the Megamouth's way of feeding. Just like the Whale Shark and Basking Shark, the Megamouth swims along with it's broad mouth open straining small shrimp, plankton, and other small oceanic creatures.

Megamouths are considered to be harmless and are not likely to be seen by divers. They are believed to distributed throughout the oceans of the world, and seem to prefer to be mainly found at great ocean depths.

The Megamouth's mouth stretches approximately 3-1/2 feet across, with numerous small teeth. They are large, black, blubbery creatures with a large head.

Interesting fact... Not much is known about this shark, it wasn't until 1976 when the first was discovered off Hawaii that it was ever seen. It was considered to be the "shark discovery of the century."

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Graphic of a shark swimming in coral.

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