Animal in augmented reality

The whale shark is one of the impressive virtual figures that you will be able to discover in the Grand Large experience.

A giant among fish, the whale shark is the symbol of the power of marine life and also of its vulnerability and of the need to preserve the species of the high seas through conservation initiatives.

Whale Shark Rhincodon typus

Identity card

Whale Shark

Scientific name:
Rhincodon typus
Year of description:
Smith, 1828
IUCN Status:

All tropical and warm temperate seas, except the Mediterranean.


In the open sea (pelagic).


5 to 12 m on average.


Small fish less than 10 cm long such as sardine, anchovy, mackerel, juvenile tuna, small crustaceans and squid.


80 years.

Whale Shark Rhincodon typus

They can filter up to 6,000 litres of water an hour and swallow more than a tonne of food a day!

This placid shark moves slowly and is harmless to humans. It feeds mainly on plankton, algae and microscopic animals, as well as small fish. It then swallows large quantities of water and empties it through its gills, whereby gill rakers are used to retain food.

It filters the water by swimming or staying still in the middle of a school of fish for a better catch.

Did you know?

Animal in augmented reality

The whale shark is one of the impressive figures that you will be able to discover in the Grand Large experience.

They are often accompanied by tuna and mackerel, pelagic fish with which they accomplish great migrations. Female whale sharks migrate over shorter distances than the males.

Where is the animal to be found?

This pelagic shark can be found between the surface and depths of 120 metres but they can also dive to a depth of 1,000 m. They can also be seen in lagoons, close to estuaries and river mouths during the periods when the fish and invertebrates they feed on proliferate.The whale shark lives in all the tropical and warm temperate seas with the exception of the Mediterranean. You can come across them in the Atlantic, from New York to Brazil and from Senegal to the Gulf of Guinea; in large parts of the Indian Ocean and also in the Pacific

How can it be recognised?

The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is the largest fish in the world. Their size varies between 5 and 12 metres but they can reach a length of 15 metres, that’s to say longer than a bus! They are nevertheless smaller than the blue whale, the largest mammal in the animal kingdom. Their massive body is characterised by three large transverse lines and five vertical gill slits above the pectoral fins. They use these gills not only to breathe but also to filter the water they absorb in large amounts when they eat. Their back is coloured a bluish-grey speckled with white spots and lines forming a checked pattern whereas their belly is a plain light colour. This distribution of spots and lines makes it possible to identify these sharks: each pattern is unique.

What is distinctive about it?

The whale shark’s breeding habits are poorly known: we do not know where they mate, nor where the females give birth; we do not know the length of their gestation period, but it is thought they reproduce every two years. Their mode of reproduction is ovoviviparous, that’s to say the eggs develop and hatch inside the female which then gives birth to viable shark pups. Sexual maturity is reached when the shark reaches a length of 9 m, aged about 20 to 30.

Threat and protective measure

  • The whale sharks’ late sexual maturity weighs on this species’ survival, as it does on that of other sharks. On the IUCN red list, 37% of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction worldwide.
  • According to the IUCN it is probable that the global population of whale sharks has fallen by 50% over the last 75 years.
  • The whale sharks’ high market value makes them a target for Asian markets: their fins and flesh are consumed, and they are also used in Chinese medicine.
  • Fishing, like accidental catches are a threat to the whale shark, as are pollution and collisions with ships.

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Whale Shark Rhincodon typus

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