Watching a Galapagos Whale Shark is breathtaking, it is definitively one of them most exciting experiences in this Archipelago.
Whale Sharks are the biggest fish that inhabit in most Oceans of the world, the life span has been estimated to be between 70 and 180 years.
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But despite their size these Sharks are very difficult to spot, except of course in the Galapagos Islands where they appear regularly.
Rhincodon typus (their scientific name) have a grey to brown color fading to paler undersides and have a white spotted pattern. They are the largest fish in the world, reaching sometimes up to 18 meters in length.
It has a distinctively wide mouth at the very front of its head. It has a wide, flat head, a rounded snout, small eyes, 5 very large gill slits, 2 dorsal fins and 2 pectoral fins.
The spiracle (a vestigial first gill slit used for breathing when the shark is resting on the sea floor) is located just behind the shark's eye.
Two small eyes are located towards the front of the sharks wide, flat head. Its tail has a top fin only slightly larger than the lower fin.
The whale shark is a slow filter feeding (animals that feed by straining suspended matter and food particles from water) and as a filter feeder, it has a spacious mouth which can be up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) wide and can contain between 300 – 350 rows of tiny teeth.
The Galapagos whale shark is not an efficient swimmer, it weights up to 34,000 kg and can reach an average speed of only around 3 miles per hour.
They swim by moving the posterior 2/3 of their bodies from side to side (not just their tails, like the great white and certain other sharks).
The whale shark inhabits the world's tropical and warm-temperate oceans.
While thought to be primarily pelagic (open sea or ocean that is not near the coast), seasonal feeding aggregations of these sharks occur at the coastal sites of the Galapagos Islands.
The whale sharks are believed to have originated about 60 million years ago.
The name "whale shark" comes from the fish's physiology; that is, a shark as large as a whale that shares a similar filter feeder eating mode.
The whale shark, is one of only three known filter feeding shark species (along with the basking shark and the mega-mouth shark).
It feeds on phytoplankton, macro-algae, plankton, krill and small nektonic life, such as small squid or vertebrates.
The Galapagos whale shark is not aggressive toward people and usually indifferent to divers, but you must be careful from an accidental blow from its powerful tail.
Whale sharks in Galapagos are one of the main attractions, but security measures are taken in order to prevent tourist injuries by accident.
The whale shark is solitary and rarely seen in groups unless feeding at locations with an abundance of food.
Males range over longer distances than females, but like most sharks, the females are larger than males.
Galapagos whale shark is ovoviviparous. The eggs remain in the body and the females give birth to live young which are 15.7 inches to 23.6 inches long.
It is believed that they reach sexual maturity at around 30 years and can survive up to 180 years.
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