Rhincodon typus (A. Smith, 1828)
The whale shark is the largest known fish, with the largest specimen recorded at 20 meters long. They have fusiform bodies, the head is depressed, broad and flattened, with a large terminal mouth that can measure up to 1.5 meters. Their dorsal, or upper side has distinct markings and patterns that resemble a checkerboard, composed of light spots and stripes over a dark body, creating a disruptive coloration pattern.
This species can regularly be found in the offshore waters of Australia, Belize, Ecuador, Mexico, the Philippines, and South Africa, preferring surface waters between 21° and 30°C. These giant zooplanktivores are usually found in coastal zones with high food productivity.
They are considered docile and gentle giants, not representing danger for humans despite their size. Ecotourism industries based on snorkeling and whale shark watching are now established in several locations, including Mexico, Australia, Philippines, southeastern Africa, Seychelles, Maldives, Belize and Honduras. In these areas, monitoring must be continuous to ensure that high levels of tourism do not have a negative effect on the behavior of the species at their aggregation sites.