The Whale Shark is the largest fish in the world and, in spite of its name, it is not a “Whale” it is a “Shark”. Given its name because of its sheer size, Rhincodon typus was first identified off the coast of South Africa in 1828.
Whale Sharks are in the order Orectolobiformes, often referred to as “Carpet Sharks” because many members in this family have carpet-like patterns. Relatives within this classification number only 32 species including the Nurse Shark, Wobbegong and the Blind Shark, a nocturnal feeder that is not blind at all but has a habit of closing its eyes when caught or disturbed, thus its common name.
Unlike the Great White Shark propelling through the ocean like a torpedo, the marine giant Whale Shark is a slow moving plankton feeder, normally traveling no more than 5mph it is relatively harmless to divers and, as always, best left undisturbed.