I don’t care what they say. Swimming with a 26-foot long whale shark with a mouth that is five feet wide is dangerous. It is also, I’m sure, thrilling. The photo above is from a collection take by marine biologist Simon Pierce and published in GrindTV, Whale Shark About to Eat Diver, Or So It Appears.
The whale shark is the largest fish in existence. In fact, actual whales are the only animals on earth that are bigger than they are. The whale shark in the picture is actually small. The average length is 32 feet, but they can grow to be over 41 feet. And non-confirmed individuals have been estimated to be well over 50 feet. It doesn’t matter. Twenty-six feet is more than long enough impress and terrify me.
It is one of only three sharks that filter feed—the others being the rarely seen megamouth shark and the equally bizarre basking shark. As such, it feeds on plankton and similar foods. To feed in this way, they have roughly 300 tiny teeth and ten filter pads. They are said to be docile, even allowing divers to grab onto them for a free ride. But I can’t get past the notion that these gentle giants could swallow me whole, even though it would doubtless be on accident.
If you’ve seen Planet Earth (And if not, why not?!) you will remember seeing something like this when whale sharks feed:
So I’m going to stay out of the water. But I’m glad there are brave souls out in the world who can provide me with wonderful pictures of these magnificent creatures. They really are beautiful.