The Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)
… is the largest living species of fish, with individuals reaching lengths of 41 feet (12.5 m) or more. Though fearsome in size, Whale Sharks are gentle giants. They feed on plankton and small fish, and are generally quite tame and docile around divers.
Unlike dolphins and whales, which give birth to a single large baby, Whale Sharks are ovoviviparous - they produce up to a few hundred eggs, which the mother incubates within her body. They are fertilized slowly using stored sperm, and babies are birthed with regularity rather than in one large event. When born, young Whale Sharks are dwarfed by their mother, measuring only 16 to 24 inches (40 to 60 cm) long. Individuals take a long time to reach sexual maturity, first starting to breed around 30 years old, but may live to ages of 70 or more years.
They inhabit tropical and sub-tropical oceans worldwide; on North America’s coasts, they are primarily found off California in the Pacific, and sometimes as far north as New York in the Atlantic.
photo by Zac Wolf, borrowed from Wikimedia
(via: Peterson Field Guides)