WHALE SHARK – Rhinocodon typus.
Identification: Whale sharks are the worlds largest living fish, reaching lengths of 13m and weighing up to 13 tonnes. Once you overcome the initial awe of being in the presence of such an enormous shark several things should then become apparent. The huge, square and very wide mouth (thankfully the 3000 teeth in each jaw are minute and covered by a flap of skin) and the prominent ridging along the back, beautifully decorated with distinctive white spots and dashes – take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the show – see Mozambique dive tours.
Biology: Information is limited. The female produces live young (according to one reference as many as 300) from eggs attached to the uterus. Whale sharks, like the basking shark, are filter feeders, using their huge mouths to ‘vacuum’ zooplankton, squid and small fish which are then filtered through the sieve like structures inside the 5 large gill slits at each side of the head. It is believed that whale sharks only reach sexual maturity at 30 years of age or approx. 9m in length and that they may have a life span exceeding 100 years.
Behavior: Whale sharks occur in all tropical and warmer temperate waters and are highly migratory, their movements following plankton blooms and the changing temperatures of water masses. Preferring a balmy 21-25 degrees Celsius. Sightings in South Africa are more common in the summer months off the south coast of KwaZulu Natal, Sodwana Bay and Ponta Do Ouro Mozambique.