At first glance, the whale shark can be a terrifying creature. But the natives of Oslob, Cebu know these sea creatures—locally called butanding—are completely harmless. Here are a few interesting facts about these gentle giants.
1. Whale sharks are sharks—which makes them fish.
The name is pretty confusing but we’re making it clear: the whale shark (or Rhinodon typus) is a shark. Unlike whales, which are mammals, sharks fall under cartilaginous fish.
2. They’re the world’s largest fish.
That being said, the whale shark is the largest of its kind. The ‘whale’ part is a quick description of its sheer size. On average, they can reach up to 43 feet long, and weigh up to 24,000 pounds!
3. They have over 3,000 teeth
The whale shark has over 300 rows of teeth lining its very long mouth. However, they are so small—smaller than a rice grain, in fact—that the whale shark can’t even bite or chew. Instead, it uses its ‘gill rakers,’ a form of cartilage filters attached to its gills that catch plankton and small fish.
4. Whale sharks are migratory
As tropical fish, whale sharks stay in the equator area for the warm climate and abundant fish supply. But within the tropical to sub-tropical zone, they’ll travel a lot. Within three years, a whale shark can travel over 8000 miles. In the Philippines, you’ll mostly find them in Oslob, Cebu and Dumaguete. But they swim at an incredibly slow pace, at an average of only 3 miles per hour.
5. They’ll probably outlive us
Most marine life experts agree that big fish can live up to 60 years, but a number of scientists argue that the whale shark can live up to 100, even 150 years!
If you want to see the whale sharks in person, you can book a whale watching tour at the scenic island of Oslob, Cebu over here!