What Does Whale Sharks Eat – Whale sharks can grow up to 60 feet long and have mouths easily large enough to swallow a person.
Far from being fierce predators, however, whale sharks are gentle giants that swim around the ocean feeding on microscopic prey and sometimes fish.
What Does Whale Sharks Eat
Whale sharks survive on a diet of small planktonic organisms. This plankton contains a variety of organisms, all of which are so small that they “cannot propel themselves upstream.”
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Plankton includes krill, crab larvae and microscopic jellyfish. There is also some plant material in the form of algae.
Although it was long believed that whale sharks “subsist exclusively on animal protein,” a study published in the
A magazine found in 2019 that the gentle giants may have “a fairly omnivorous diet that includes plants and algae”.
This feeding method “differentiates particles by size, not species,” leaving the whale shark little choice in how it gets its nutrition.
Whale Shark, Rhincodon Typus (smith, 1828)
As well as plankton, whale sharks prey on small fish, such as sardines and anchovies. They will load into a ball of baited fish, and run as many fish as possible into their mouths as they run through the ball.
Scientists are not sure how often whale sharks choose to feed like this. Although the whale shark gets a larger meal, this feeding method requires more energy than the whale shark’s passive feeding techniques.
Scientists have long believed that whale sharks had a diet of plankton only, but recent research suggests that they also eat algae, small schooling fish and even the occasional squid.
Despite this, a study of whale sharks off the coasts of Mozambique and South Africa found that small shrimp-like crustaceans, called mysids, made up the majority of the sharks’ diet, which and 61 to 92% of stomach contents by stranded whales. .
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Other studies have found that crab larvae are a vital part of the whale shark’s diet and that older whale sharks tend to seek out larger prey species, targeting more “small fish and/or larger zooplankton of higher trophic levels… as they grow . “
There is a limit to how much whale sharks can eat because they cannot chew, and their throats are quite small.
This behavior makes it impossible for researchers to follow them around, trying to find out how much they eat. Fortunately, there are some very clever scientists who have come up with a way to work it out.
Researchers studying the feeding anatomy, behavior and diet of the whale shark off Cabo Catoche, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, made some interesting discoveries.
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They calculated that whale sharks spend about 7.5 hours a day eating. During that time, a shark with a length of 19.6 feet takes about 600 cubic meters of water into its mouth every hour.
From this he filtered about 2.8 kg of food per hour, which means that he ate 21 kg of food per day.
However, that is for a 19.6-foot shark. The largest whale shark ever recorded was 61.7 feet, so we can assume that it would need to eat three times as much as the smaller shark, making it eat 60 kg daily!
Forest sharks probably don’t use that much daily, and scientists suspect they go through long periods of fasting. Studies show that whale sharks “can go four months or more without food.”
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This approach would make sense for a highly migratory creature. When food is plentiful, it kills itself and then uses that energy to feed itself in search of the next meal.
Researchers believe that whale sharks use their sense of smell to locate their prey. They can “feel the density of the plankton with their nose” and then point their huge heads at it.
Whale sharks can eat while standing still, nibbling at plankton by constantly opening and closing their mouths.
When it is suction feeding, the whale shark can be vertical or horizontal in the water, but it is almost motionless throughout its life.
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When feeding on surface rams, a whale shark will float on the surface of the water with the top of its head exposed. The mouth is also partially open out of the water, as the shark swims slowly with speeds of around 0.3-1.5 m/s.
While feeding on a ram, the whale shark sometimes “coughs” to flush water and particles from its filters before going back to feeding.
When targeting small fish, whale sharks use a technique similar to the ram feeding method on the surface, but travel faster and more aggressively, exploding into a ball of bait. They will also hang vertically under a bait ball, as they fly fish into their mouths.
Marine biologists from the Marine Megafauna Foundation at Murdoch University in Australia collaborated with researchers from Udayana University in Indonesia to calculate how much plastic whale sharks might ingest.
How Do Whale Sharks Eat?
Ingesting so much plastic could have a negative impact on already endangered species, especially considering how slowly whale sharks reproduce.
Thresher sharks are not the only filter feeders in the ocean, and plankton is “a critical food source for many aquatic organisms large and small.”
Brewer sharks like the whale shark are large filter feeders so they are more likely to compete with the whale shark for food.
Basking sharks travel thousands of kilometers in search of food, so the habitat of the two species can easily overlap.
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Other large filter feeders, such as the blue whale and the megamouth shark, will also use tropical waters, potentially competing with whale sharks for the same microscopic organisms.
Whale sharks do not necessarily choose what they eat, as they often use a passive feeding technique.
If given the option, however, they will seek out areas with high concentrations of planktonic organisms, including crab larvae, krill and jellyfish.
Although researchers have long believed that the whale shark subsisted on animal protein alone, recent studies suggest that it has more of an omnivorous diet, eating plant material in the form of algae as well as zooplankton and small fish.
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Whale sharks can’t eat anything they want, so they only eat microscopic plankton and small fish. They no longer prey on fish, marine mammals or humans.
Forest sharks have a more varied diet than researchers suspected, eating algae and small fish in addition to plankton.
They also have a wider range of feeding methods than scientists first thought, using ram filter feeding, as well as more passive techniques.
Due to the anatomy of the whale shark it cannot chew or swallow larger species, so although it is the largest shark in our ocean, it is also one of the least aggressive.
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Nicky is a British expat and animal lover who spends her time exploring nature and writing about her experiences. Whether on horseback, underwater, running, walking or simply standing with a fishing rod in hand, she embodies all that her adopted home of South Africa has to offer. sweet and curious nature. As their name suggests, they are often seen swimming alongside whales in the ocean. But what many people don’t know is that whale sharks eat whales. Although they do not usually hunt whales, they will scavenge on whale carcasses or eat parts of already dead whales. Researchers have documented this behavior in several places around the world, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Galapagos Islands and the Indian Ocean. In this article, we will take a closer look at the diet of whale sharks and examine what they eat, when they feed on whales, and the consequences for whale populations.
The only whales that can successfully hunt, attack and eat sharks are the orca (perhaps the false orca). Killer whales are thought to be intelligent, highly organized and socially adaptable. Marine mammals like this have been known to attack and eat everything from small fish to squid, seals, sea lions and large whales. The apex predator is a predator that has no predators of its own. Apart from these three factors, other whales do not eat sharks. Unlike other whales, Baleen whales do not have teeth or a small throat, so they cannot swallow large objects such as sharks or large fish. Cetaceans do not regularly hunt sharks, but occasionally eat shark parts. Sperm whales have one of the largest (if not the largest) throats of any living animal in this category, which is unusual. Sperm whales are unlikely to have sharks in their stomachs.
Dolphins, especially young calves and sick adult dolphins, are targeted by large sharks, which are the weakest and most vulnerable marine animals.
The whale shark (which is the third largest creature in the ocean after blue whales and fin whales) does not attack and poses no threat to humans. The sharks do not mind scientists and divers swimming near them, because they like to be with them.
Good Luck Sharks
Examination of all orcas revealed that they are omnivores, consuming fish, seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, sharks, rays, large whales, cephalopods (octopods and squid), and seabirds. However, some killer whales specialize in specific prey, which explains why they are picky eaters.
Dead whales are probably the biggest predators, but it’s not unusual
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