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NEFSC Apex Predators Program

whale shark Whale shark

WHALE SHARK

Rhincodon typus

SIZE

To about 40 ft (12.2 m).

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

  • Back and sides marked with unique checkerboard pattern of white-to-yellow spots and transverse bars on dark gray to reddish- or greenish-gray background
  • Head broad and flat with short snout
  • Mouth near tip of snout in front of eyes
  • Sides with three prominent ridges

DISTRIBUTION

New York to central Brazil, including Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

HABITAT

Coastal and offshore; sometimes enters lagoons of coral atolls; most commonly 68-77°F (20-25°C).

SIMILAR SPECIES

Size and unique markings of whale shark distinguish this species from other Atlantic sharks.

MORE INFORMATION

Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History


Guide to Sharks, Tunas, & Billfishes of the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Text descriptions taken from:
Guide to Sharks, Tunas, & Billfishes
of the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico

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(File Modified Aug. 08 2017)