The Biggest Fish in the Sea! Introducing.. Rhincodon typus!


    Rhincodon typus
does not see much interaction outside of its prey (see the

Form/Function page to learn about the feeding habits!). Along with that, is the fact

that while R. typus feeds, it is not very active as a filter feeder. While Chondrichthyes

as a class are known to travel in groups, the whale sharks are less likely to be

involved in groups- they are the only pelagic orectoloboids (Compagno, 2001).

Pelagic means of or dwelling in the open sea. With little interaction with fellow sea

dwelling animals, and non-active feeding, with whom does a whale shark interact?
    It does seem that whale sharks travelled alone, but there exists one  aggregation of

up to 420 whale sharks in the Mexican Caribbean (Clarke and Nelson, 1997). R.

may not initiate this interaction, but whale sharks find themselves

accompanied by a small fish known as remoras. These fish will either swim

alongside of, or latch on (by sucking) to the shark. R. typus not only gives these

smaller fish a ride, but they also benefit the whale shark by removing parasites on

the body or within the mouth (Ritter, 2009). Remoras and R.typus interaction is

pictured below!


    Luckily enough for you and I, there exists interaction between R. typus and Homo

... (humans)! The chance to swim with whale sharks is a hit with tourists in

areas such as Australia. (If you are ever on vacation in Australia, here is a great link

to go to if you want to swim with whale sharks! For those of you who will not be

travelling anytime soon but want to experience interacting with a whale shark, watch

this YouTube video of footage from swimming with whale sharks!)

    Tourism industries that are based on viewing whale sharks are now located in

countries from Mexico to the Philippines. Swimming with and observing whale

sharks has become a great sourceof income for tourism industries. Along with that,

those in charge of tours involving whale sharks also need to moniter the effect that

human interactionhas on the R.typus population (Rowatt and Brooks, 2012).


    The relationship between humans and R.typus is not always positive. Whale

sharks are actually considered food in some countries because of their soft meat.

Different aspects of whale sharks are sold and traded, for example, the flesh is

considered a delicacy in Taiwan, and the fins are sold as objects to display. Because

of the demand for whale sharks and their desired meat, skin, and bones, R.typus

are now considered "vulnerable to extinction" (Riley, et all, 2009). This is a direct

result of human interference and whale shark's docile lifestyle and inability to

defend themselves. Do you want to change the conservation status of the whale

shark? Check out the World Wildlife Fund for ways to help. This website shows all

animals in dangerof extinction, including animals such as the Giant Panda.


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