Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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Species: Rhincodon typus, Whale Shark

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snout short, broad
black + white spots and bars
C ~symmetrical
mouth wide, opens at front



Rhincodon typus Smith, 1828

Whale Shark

Body heavy, cylindrical; snout very short, broad and flattened; eye small, round, behind short mouth; mouth wide but short, opening almost at front of head, a little behind tip of snout; five large gill slits, last three over pectoral fin; teeth very small, many, with hooked tips; two dorsal fins, first over pelvics, 2nd much smaller, over anal; tail asymmetrical, but with large lower lobe; tail base flattened, with large keel that continues forward as crest along body and over gill slits, with two or more crests above along body.

Dark, with prominent white spots & bars.

Size: 18.8 m (old visual records to 21 m).

Habitat: pelagic in nearshore and offshore waters.

Depth: 0-1928 m.

This species is distributed worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas; throughout the western Atlantic.

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  • Marine
  • Marine Only
  • In & Offshore
  • Inshore
  • Offshore
Water Column Position
  • Mid Water
  • Near Surface
  • Surface
  • Water column only
  • Water column
FishBase Habitat
  • Pelagic
Feeding Group
  • Data
  • Omnivore
  • Planktivore
  • Data
  • Zooplankton
  • Bony fishes
  • Octopus/squid/cuttlefish
  • Pelagic crustacea
  • Pelagic fish eggs
Egg Type
  • Data
  • Live birth
  • No pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Circumtropical ( Indian + Pacific + Atlantic Oceans)
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Also in Brazil
  • Continent
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Extends N + S of GC
  • Extends North of GC
  • Extends South of GC
  • GC non-endemic
  • Island (s)
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Equatorial (0-10N, Costa Rica / Venezuela)
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Temperate (>35N)
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
IUCN Red List
  • Endangered
  • Listed
  • Appendix II
  • Listed
Length Max
  • 1880
Depth Range Min
  • 0
Depth Range Max
  • 1928