Our oceans are home to some real giants. In fact, some of our oceans’ current inhabitants are the largest creatures ever to have lived on Planet Earth. Despite their vast size, these giants tend to be gentle creatures that mean us no harm. It can even be safe for us get into the water to swim alongside them, provided we treat them with the respect that they deserve. One such creature is the whale shark and although there are larger creatures in the ocean, it is the largest fish on our planet.
Despite them being so enormous, we don’t know a lot about these gentle giants. They will slip off into the vastness of the oceans and we know little about what they do or where they go. What we do know about them is mostly from the time that they spend at the surface, slowly feeding on some of the oceans’ smallest inhabitants. That we know so little about them is a reminder that there is still so much to learn about our planet.
As we learn more about these magnificent creatures, we have discovered some amazing facts.
Whale Shark Fact #10: Whale Sharks Really Are Sharks
Is the whale shark a whale, or is it a shark? Quite simply, the whale shark is a shark and is not related to whales. It is quite possible that the whale shark was named because it reaches whale-like proportions, but that’s where the similarity ends. Whales, like us, are mammals. This means that among other things, they have lungs and need to breathe oxygen directly from the air. While whales can dive and hold their breath for long periods, they must still resurface for air to avoid drowning.
However, the whale shark is very much a shark, and all sharks are fish. This means that they use gills to extract the oxygen that they need from the water which means that they are able to remain under the water without having to surface. While they are often found near the surface, as with whales, this has nothing to do with a need to breathe air.