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Whale Shark: Neither Whale Nor Shark

With a name like whale shark, you would think this animal would be either a whale, or a shark, or perhaps a strange fierce combination of both. However, whale sharks are actually the world’s largest fish, but don’t worry: they don’t eat humans.

Their white spots are like fingerprints and can be used to identify individual whale sharks. Tourists often photograph whale sharks because of their interesting appearance. Tourists also send in the pictures they took of the whale sharks to ECOCEAN, a conservation program that helps researchers to look at the photographs to track those same whale sharks around the world.

By tracking them, researchers learn about their health and where they are traveling. Whale sharks find and eat plankton, and researchers also want to learn more about the amount of plankton and where they are located in the ocean. The amount of plankton shows if the ocean is healthy.

Overall, whale sharks are important because they tell us about the health of the oceans’ ecosystem. And, they are pretty cool animals with a unique name.

[Source: National Geographic Kids]