The Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus, is not only the largest member of the shark family, it’s also the largest of the fish species–and it’s the first in the series of Phylo Coral-Reef Card illustrations that belong to Maki’s set! Previous entries from my own set can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
It may be our evolutionary heritage or it may be partially learned behavior but as far as animal outward appearances go nature provides a pretty decent inherent-danger-indicator*. Creepy crawlies, large teeth, talons, fangs, ominous stares, blood curdling cries and camouflage pattern surprises. If you’re out in the wild and something looks dangerous, don’t pet it with your face.**
It should come as no surprise then that the slow moving polka-dotted whale shark is essentially a swimming pussy cat. Mostly filter feeding on plankton these gentle giants shake their heads at their bloody vicious shark cousins and (probably) award themselves back handed moral superiority claims whenever the subject of food comes up. “I have rows of vestigial teeth too you guys, but I don’t use them. I get everything I need from plankton and stuff. With the right spices it tastes just as good as seal… no seriously.”
Joking aside, and interestingly enough in Taiwan the Whale shark is called the Tofu shark for the taste and texture of it’s meat!
As a little kid I remember the Whale Shark being one of my first favorites because of it’s gentle nature. It stood in stark contrast in my mind to it’s much scarier, much bitier brethren (though I would lay most of the blame for this on the way they were portrayed on TV).
*I’m clearly not talking about hard and binding rules here.
**I’ve been living by this rule for a while and so far –no major facial scars. I also follow the additional rule of ‘if it’s really creepy stomp on it, burn your shoe, then run away screaming (with stiff arms and jazz fingers)’.