Rhincodon typus   Smith,  1928 (Fish)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Elasmobranchii

Image copyrights: MarineBio

Size: 2,000 cm TL (male)

Max. published weight: 34,000.0 kg

A huge, blunt-headed shark with a terminal mouth and a prominent checkerboard pattern of light spots, horizontal and vertical stripes on a dark background. Caudal fin crescentic, with a strong lower lobe but no subterminal notch. It has small, scale-like teeth and feeds by filtering plankton with special sieve-like modifications of the gill bars. Dorsal spines (total): 0; Anal spines: 0.

World's largest fish, which is harmless to humans. Found singly, or in aggregations of over 100 individuals. Highly migratory between ocean basins and national jurisdictions, but returns to the same sites annually. Based on tagging and DNA studies, males tend to do long-distance migrations while females migrate only short distances always going back to their original place of birth. Often seen in a vertical position with the head at or near the surface when feeding. When actively feeding on zooplankton the sharks turn their heads from side to side, with part of the head lifted out of the water, and the mouth opened and closed 7-28 times per minute; these suction gulps were synchronized with the opening and closing of the gill slits.

Dioecious, internal (oviduct) fertilization, internal live bearers. Distinct pairing with embrace. Ovoviviparous. Embryos feed solely on yolk. Late term embryos shed their egg case within the uterus at a size of 58 to 64 cm TL (ovovivipary). The smallest free-living species are from 55-56 cm long, the smallest of which had an umbilical scar.

Max. reported age: 70 years

Synonym (s)
Micristodus punctatus Gill, 1865
(Junior synonym)
Rhicodon typus Smith, 1828
Rhincodon pentalineatus Kishinouye, 1891
Rhincodon typicus Mori, 1952
Rhincodon typus Day, 1888
Rhincodon typus Day, 1889
Rhincodon typus Fowler, 1941
Rhincodon typus Herre, 1953
Rhincodon typus Misra, 1949
Rhincodon typus Misra, 1952
Rhincodon typus Misra, 1958
Rhincodon typus Regan, 1908
Rhincodon typus Smith, 1828
(Senior synonym)
Rhincodon typus Smith, 1953
Rhincodon typus Smith, 1829
Rhincodon typus van Kampen, 1908
Rhincodon typus Whitley, 1940
Rhineodon typus Smith, 1828
Rhinodon pentalineatus Kishinouye, 1901
(Junior synonym)
Rhinodon typicus Anonymous, 1955
Rhinodon typicus Muller & Henle, 1839
(Junior synonym)
Rhinodon typicus Smith, 1845
(Junior synonym)
Rhinodon typus Garman, 1913
Rhinodon typus Lioyd, 1908
Rhinodon typus Pillay, 1929
Rhinodon typus Southwell, 1913
Setache maxima Thomas, 1887
Rhiniodon typus (Smith, 1828)
(Senior synonym)

Common Name (s)
• Whale Shark (English)
• Thimingala Sura (Malayalam)
• Kanarese (Marathi)
• Khondecha (Marathi)
• Karanj (Marathi)
• Bahiri (Marathi)
• Pulli Udoombu (Tamil)
• Pulli Udoombu (Tamil)
• Thimingila Sora (Telugu)
• Karunji
• Thimingal Sura (Tamil)
• Fevurehi (Mahl)
• Makara Sravu (Malayalam)
• Vybedu (Malayalam)
• Behiri (Marathi)
• Deomushi (Marathi)
• Amini Uluvai (Tamil)
• Pulli Udumban Sravu (Tamil)
• Usman Sravu (Tamil)
• Barar (Gujarati)
• Barrel (Gujarati)
• Behirat (Marathi)
• Bhari (Marathi)
• Thimingalam Sravu (Malayalam)
• Panaimeen (Tamil)
• Pulibokku Sorrah (Telugu)
• Dhalla Magar (Oriya)
• Sisu Magar
• Vorimas meer
• Barel
Economic Importance and Threats
Importance:  Commercial
(Fisheries; utilized fresh, frozen, dried and salted for human consumption, liver processed for oil, fins used for shark-fin soup, offal probably for fishmeal, cartilage for health supplements and skin for leather products.)
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(The whale shark has a high value in international trade and the species is the target of directed fisheries. The species' K-selected life history, highly migratory nature, and low abundance make it particularly vulnerable to exploitation.)

Habitat:  Pelagic, Reef Associated
Trophic Level:  Secondary Consumer
Prey:  Planktonic and nektonic prey, such as small fishes (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, juvenile tunas and albacore), small crustaceans and squids
Predator:  Makaira nigricans, Prionace glauca, Orcinus orca
IUCN Status:  Vulnerable


• Karnataka, Netrani Island (Lat: 14.01) (Long: 74.32) INDIA (Record: 10/05/2006) (Depth: -15 mts)
• Tamil Nadu INDIA
• Kerala INDIA
• West Bengal, Digha Ghole (Lat: 21.61) (Long: 87.53) INDIA (Record: 1981-1982)
• Red Sea
• Gujarat INDIA
• Kerala, Kochi Fisheries Harbour INDIA (Record: 01/2008-06/2009)

Literature Source(s)
  • Wafar, MVM (2003) Checklists of reef fauna Available at - http://www.reefindia.org/
  • Venkateswarlu, T and Rama Rao, KV (1986) Valid scientific names to Day's fish fauna of India Miscellaneous publication, occasional paper no 87 Records of the Zoological Survey of India ZSI p 48 Available at - NCL, Pune
  • Chatterjee, TK; Talukdar, RS and Mukherjee, AK (2000) Fish and fisheries of Digha coast of West Bengal Occasional paper no 188 Records of the Zoological Survey of India 31778 Available at - NCL, Pune
  • Ocean Biogeographic Information System Available at - http://www.iobis.org/
  • Hussain, SM Brief report on biodiversity in the coastal areas of Pakistan p 113
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at - http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  • Letourneur, Y; Chabanet, P; Durville, P; Taquet, M; Teissier, E; Parmentier, M; Quero, JC and Pothin, K (2004) An updated checklist of the marine fish fauna of Reunion Island, south-western Indian Ocean Cybium 28(3) 199-216
  • Kemp, JM (1998) Zoogeography of the coral reef fishes of the Socotra Archipelago Journal of Biogeography 25 919-933
  • Rowat, D (1997) Seychelles whale shark tagging project: Pilot project report Phelsuma 5 77-80
  • Deraniyagala, PEP (1952) A Colored Atlas of some vertebrates from Ceylon Ceylon National Museum Publication 1 1-149 Available at - NIO, RC Kochi
  • Zacharia, PU; Krishnakumar, PK; Dineshbabu, AP; Vijayakumaran, K; Rohit, P; Thomas, S; Sasikumar, G; Kaladharan, P; Durgekar, RN and Mohamed, KS (2008) Species assemblage in the coral reef ecosystem of Netrani Island off Karnataka along the southwest coast of India Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India The Marine Biological Association of India, Cochin, India 50(1) 87-97 Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Society for the Management of European Biodiversity Data (2009) World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) Available at - http://www.marinespecies.org
  • Froese, R and Pauly, D (2000) Fishbase 2000: Concepts, design and data sources ICLARM 344 pp Available at - http://www.fishbase.org
  • Hanfee, F (1999) Management of shark fisheries in two Indian coastal states: Tamil Nadu and Kerala Case studies of the management of elasmobranch fisheries. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 378 Rome, FAO Part 1 (11) Available at - http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/X2097E/X2097E14.htm#ch11.
  • Manna, B and Goswami, BCB (1985) A check-list of marine and estuarine fishes of Digha, West Bengal, India Mahasagar- Bulletin of the National Institute of Oceanography NIO, Goa 18(4) 489-499 Available at - http://nicmas.nio.org/Mahasagar/Mahasagar_V-18/Mahasagar_18%284%29_489.pdf
  • Raje, SG; Sivakami, S; Mohanraj, G; Manoj Kumar, PP; Raju, A and Joshi, KK (2007) An atlas on the Elasmobranch fishery resources of India CMFRI Special publication CMFRI, Cochin, India. 95 253pp Available at - http://eprints.cmfri.org.in/4056/1/Special_Publn_95.pdf
  • Dholakia, AD (2004) Marine resources Fisheries and aquatic resources of India Daya publishing house 271-303 Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Biswas, KP (2009) Fishes around Indian Ocean Elasmobranch Fishes Daya publishing house Available at - NIO,Goa
  • Akhilesh, KV; Ganga, U; Pillai, NGK; Vivekanandan, E; Bineesh, KK; Shanis, CPR and Hashim, M (2011) Deep-sea fishing for chondrichthyan resources and sustainability concerns-a case study from southwest coast of India Indian Journal of Geo-Marine Sciences NISCAIR 40(3) 347-355 Available at - nopr.niscair.res.in/bitstream/.../1/IJMS%2040(3)%20347-355.pdf

Page last updated on:2012-02-20

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