Whale shark

Rhincodon typus

Family Rhincodontidae - sharks

Distinguishing
Characteristics
Body elongate, stout, very large; head broad and flattened somewhat, snout very short, squarish; color dark gray to reddish or greenish background, white or yellow on belly, numerous white or yellow spots and transvers lines on head and body; mouth very wide, near tip of head, eyes behind mouth; teeth very small; 3 ridges on each side of body, the lowermost extending to the tail forming a keel on each side of caudal peduncle; 1st dorsal fin originates behind midbody, tail fin crescent shape, upper lobe longer, no subterminal notch on upper lobe; nostrils with thick barbels; precaudal pit present.
Similar Species
The size and unique body patterning distinguish this shark from other sharks. The body patterning distinguishes it from whales.
Habitat
Gulf, open ocean
Maximum Size
20 m (65.5 ft), common to 10 m (33 ft)
Fin Element Counts
Other Common Names
Previous Scientific Names
Comments
This is the largest living fish in the oceans. It is a plankton feeder, but occationally eats on small fishes and invertebrates. The whale shark is protected by federal and state laws.
State size/bag limits
Bag limit is 0, this is a prohibited species; See Shark Regulations; Check for state record.