The largest known fish in the ocean. I am not an air-breathing mammal and although I can grow from 7 to 12.5 meters in length and weigh as much as 75,000 pounds, I am a gentle, harmless and almost shy creature. My skin is gray, mottled with pale yellow spots and stripes along my back and white on the underside.
I can migrate thousands of miles to different feeding grounds but only at a slow swimming speed of around 3 miles per hour. My species originated about 60 million years ago and I can live as much as 70 to 150 years.
Want a clue? My scientific name is Rhincodon Typus.
Me and my partners usually visit the Sea of Cortez waters from October to February each year. We are filter feeders and we eat mainly plankton but occasionally we feed ourselves from plants and small fish as well. We love winter waters and the Sea of Cortez provides us with everything we need in order to feel safe and comfortable to return every year.
Time to introduce myself: I am the Whale Shark of the Sea of Cortez.
Whale or Shark? Contrary to what my name suggests, I am not closely related to whales in any way. I got my name from my immense size, which is reminiscent of large whale species. The name also comes from my foraging behavior, filter feeding, which is also used by other whales. This way of feeding is almost a unique strategy among sharks. We feed ourselves by opening our giant maws, taking water and then spit it out through our teeth while keeping the plankton and other small fish. By the way, whale sharks have 3,000 tiny teeth that are usually less than 7 mm long.
You can spot me in the shallow, nutrient-rich waters of La Paz near El Mogote. Fortunately private vessels are prohibited from visiting our environment areas. Some providers are authorized to reach us but they have to fly an identification banner on the vessels. Only free diving is permitted, but not scuba tanks in any way. Please do not try to touch me, give me at least 2 meters of space because the touch of my skin can leave me open to life-threatening infection and although I am a harmless creature, a brisk movement of my tail can cause you injury.
I am sure it would be a breathtaking experience to look each other eye to eye.
Rhinco, the gentle giant