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Rhincodon typus Smith, 1828
Checkerboard Shark; Rhiniodon typus Smith, 1828

Life   Vertebrata   Fish   Rhincodontidae   Rhincodon

Rhincodon typus
© Copyright Photographer/SFTEP, 2002 · 0
Rhincodon typus

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Main identification features Robust body; snout very short and broad; eye small, round; mouth wide, transverse, a little behind tip of snout; five large gill slits, last three over pectoral fin; two dorsal fins, first over pelvics, second and smaller fin over anal; tail almost symmetric, with large lower lobe; tail base flattened, with large keel that continues forward as crest along body and over gill slits, with two more crests above along body.

Dark, with prominent white spots.

Size: to 21.40 m.

Habitat: pelagic in nearshore and offshore waters.

Depth: 0-240 m.

This species is distributed worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas, including throughout the eastern Pacific.

Abundance: Common.
Cites: Appendix II.
Climate Zone: North Temperate (Californian Province &/or Northern Gulf of California); Northern Subtropical (Cortez Province + Sinaloan Gap); Northern Tropical (Mexican Province to Nicaragua + Revillagigedos); Equatorial (Costa Rica to Ecuador + Galapagos, Clipperton, Cocos, Malpelo); South Temperate (Peruvian Province ).
Depth Range Max: 240 m.
Depth Range Min: 0 m.
Diet: zooplankton; pelagic fish eggs; bony fishes; Pelagic crustacea; octopus/squid/cuttlefish.
Eastern Pacific Range: Northern limit=33; Southern limit=-27; Western limit=-118; Eastern limit=-71; Latitudinal range=60; Longitudinal range=47.
Egg Type: Live birth; No pelagic larva.
Feeding Group: Planktivore.
FishBase Habitat: Pelagic.
Global Endemism: Circumtropical ( Indian + Pacific + Atlantic Oceans); East Pacific + Atlantic (East +/or West); Transisthmian (East Pacific + Atlantic of Central America); East Pacific + all Atlantic (East+West); All Pacific (West + Central + East); TEP non-endemic; "Transpacific" (East + Central &/or West Pacific); All species.
Habitat: Water column.
Inshore Offshore: Inshore; Offshore; In & Offshore.
IUCN Red List: Vulnerable; Listed.
Length Max: 2140 cm.
Regional Endemism: Island (s); Continent; Continent + Island (s); Eastern Pacific non-endemic; Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) non-endemic; All species.
Residency: Resident.
Salinity: Marine; Marine Only.
Water Column Position: Mid Water; Near Surface; Surface; Water column only;

Scientific source:

Links to other sites

  • Acero, A. and Franke, R., 2001., Peces del parque nacional natural Gorgona. En: Barrios, L. M. y M. Lopéz-Victoria (Eds.). Gorgona marina: Contribución al conocimiento de una isla única., INVEMAR, Serie Publicaciones Especiales No. 7:123-131.
  • Almenara Roldán, S. C., 2000., Demanda internacional en el manejo de especies marinas de ornato. En Aburto Oropeza, O. y C. A. Sánchez Ortiz (Eds.). Recursos arrecifales del Golfo de California, estrategias de manejo para las especies marinas de ornato., Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur:30-38.
  • Béarez, P., 1996., Lista de los Peces Marinos del Ecuador Continental., Revista de Biologia Tropical, 44:731-741.
  • Castro-Aguirre, J.L. and Balart, E.F., 2002., La ictiofauna de las islas Revillagigedos y sus relaciones zoogeograficas, con comentarios acerca de su origen y evolucion. En: Lozano-Vilano, M. L. (Ed.). Libro Jubilar en Honor al Dr. Salvador Contreras Balderas., Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo León:153-170.
  • Compagno, L.J.V., 1999., Checklist of living elasmobranchs. In Hamlett W.C. (ed.) Sharks, skates, and rays: the biology of elasmobranch fishes., The John Hopkins University Press:471-498.
  • Compagno, L.J.V., 1984., Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of sharks species known to date. Part 1. Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Species Catalogue., FAO Fish. Synop. No 125, 4(1):1-249.
  • Eschmeyer , W. N. , Herald , E. S. and Hamman, H., 1983., A field guide to Pacific coast fishes of North America from the Gulf of Alaska to Baja California. Peterson Field Guide Ser. 28., Houghton Mifflin:336pp.
  • Findley, L.T., Hendrickx, M.E., Brusca, R.C., van der Heiden, A.M., Hastings, P.A., Torre, J., 2003., Diversidad de la Macrofauna Marina del Golfo de California, Mexico., CD-ROM versión 1.0. Projecto de la Macrofauna del Golfo .  Derechos reservados de los autores y Conservación Internacional.
  • Fischer , W. , Krup , F. , Schneider , W. , Sommer , C. , Carpenter , K. E. and Niem, V. H., 1995., Guia FAO para la Identificacion de Especies de para los fines de la Pesca. Pacifico Centro-Oriental. Volumen II. Vertebrados - Parte 1., FAO2:647-1200.
  • Galván-Magaña, F., Abitia-Cárdenas, L.A., Rodríguez-Romero, J., Pérez-España, H., Chávez-Ramos, H., 1996., Systematics list of the fishes from Cerralvo island, Baja California Sur, Mexico., Ciencias Marinas, 22:295-311.
  • Hildebrand, S.F., 1946., A descriptive catalog of the shore fishes of Peru., Bull. U.S. Nat. Mus., 189:1-530.
  • Humann, P., 1993., Reef Fish Identification: Galapagos., New World Publishing:192pp.
  • Jimenez-Prado, P., Béarez, P., 2004., Peces marinos del Ecuador continental / Marine fishes of continental Ecuador., SIMBIOE/NAZCA/IFEA tomo 1 y 2.
  • Lopez , M. I. and Bussing, W. A., 1982., Lista provisional de los peces marinos de la Costa Rica., Revista de Biologia Tropical, 30(1):5-26.
  • Love, M.S., Mecklenburg, C.W., Mecklenburg, T.A., Thorsteinson, L.K., 2005., es of the West Coast and Alaska: a checklist of North Pacific and Artic Ocena species from Baja California to the Alaska-Yukon border., U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, 288pp.
  • Musick, J.A., Harbin, M.M., Berkeley, S.A., Burgess, G.H. Eklund, A.M., Findley, L., Gilmore, R.G., Golden, J.T., Ha, D.S., Huntsman, G.R., McGovern, J.C., Parker, S.J., Poss, S.G., Sala, E., & Schmidt, T.W., Sedberry, G.R., Weeks, H., Wright, S.G., 2000., Marine, estuarine, and diadromous fish stocks at risk of extinction in North America (exclusive of Pacific salmonids)., Fisheries, 25:6-30.
  • Rubio, E.A., 1986., Notas sobre la ictiofauna de la Isla de Gorgona, Colombia., Boletin Ecotropica. Univ. Bog. Jorge Tadeo Lozano, 13:86-112.
  • Smith, A., 1828., Descriptions of new, or imperfectly known objects of the animal kingdom, found in the south of Africa., So. Afr. Commercial Advertiser, 3:2.
  • Van der Heiden , A. M. and Findley, L. T., 1988., Lista de los peces marinos del sur de Sinaloa, México., Anales del Centro de Ciencias del Mar y Limnologia de la Universidad Autonoma Nacional de Mexico, 15:209-224.
  • Villareal-Cavazos, A., Reyes-Bonilla, H., Bermúdez-Almada, B. and Arizpe-Covarrubias, O., 2000., Los peces del arrecife de Cabo Pulmo, Golfo de California, México: Lista sistemática y aspectos de abundancia y biogeografía., Rev. Biol. Trop., 48:413-424.


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Kingdom Animalia  
 Phylum Chordata  
 Class Chondrichthyes  
 Order Orectolobiformes  
 Family Rhincodontidae  
 Genus Rhincodon  
  Rhincodon typus    Smith, 1828 
Provider: Pofeng Lee& Shoou-Jeng Joung 
hierarchy tree    download xml    download txt    Chinese Page    
Synonyms: Micristodus punctatus Rhicodon typus Rhineodon typus Rhiniodon typus Rhinodon pentalineatus Rhinodon typicus   details
Citation: 臺灣魚類誌(沈等, 1993); 中國動物誌-圓口綱及軟骨魚綱(朱等, 2001); FAO Species Catalogue, Vol.4 Sharks of the world
Character: A very large shark with cylindrical or moderately depressed body. Head very broad and flattened, with 5 large gill slits, the posterior 3 over the pectoral-fin bases; no gill rakers but filter grids of transverse bars and lobes across the internal gill slits; spiracles much smaller than eyes; nostrils with short, quadrate anterior nasal flaps, minute barbels, and shallow nasoral grooves; no nictitating eyelids; snout extremely short, truncated ; mouth nearly subterminal, very wide, transverse and short, not reaching backward to eyes; teeth very small and extremely numerous, similar in both jaws, not bladelike and with hooked cusps. Two dorsal fins, the first with rear 1/3 of base over pelvic-fin bases, the second less than half the size of first; anal fin present; caudal fin asymmetrical, crescentic, with a strong lower lobe but no subterminal notch. Caudal peduncle depressed, with a strong keel on each side continuing forward onto the back and over the gill slits as a small ridge and flanked by 2 additional ridges above; upper precaudal pit present. Colour: a unique checkerboard pattern of white or yellow spots, horizontal and vertical stripes on a grey, bluish, reddish or greenish brown dorsal surface, abruptly white or yellowish on the underside of the body. 
Habitat: This is by far the world’s largest fish-like vertebrate, with an uncertain maximum size. Maximum total length at least 12 m; possibly 17 to 18 m or even 21.4 m. An epipelagic and neritic, oceanic and coastal, tropical and warm-temperate pelagic shark, oft 
Distribution: Circumglobal in the tropical and warm temperate Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, oceanic and coastal. 
Utility: The whale shark was formerly of limited interest to fisheries worldwide, but recently became the subject of a high value fishery off Taiwan and the Pilippines for fins, flesh, and other products. Captured in gill nets and sometimes in trawls, and often ha 
Name Code: 383137
      IUCN Red List:EN  A2bd+4bd                Marine     
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Number of matches : 12
Query: SELECT * FROM img WHERE ready=1 and taxon like "Rhincodon typus%" and (lifeform != "specimen_tag" OR lifeform != "Animal") ORDER BY taxon

Click on the thumbnail to see an enlargement

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 1338 3161 0663 0008 [detail]
Glenn and Martha Vargas
© 2004 California Academy of Sciences

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 1338 3161 0663 0007 [detail]
Glenn and Martha Vargas
© 2004 California Academy of Sciences

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 0000 0000 0810 1487 [detail]
© 2010 Richard Lang

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 0000 0000 0810 1488 [detail]
© 2010 Richard Lang

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 0000 0000 0810 1490 [detail]
© 2010 Richard Lang

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 0000 0000 0810 1552 [detail]
© 2010 Richard Lang

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 0000 0000 0810 1553 [detail]
© 2010 Richard Lang

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 0000 0000 0713 1537 [detail]
© 2013 Joseph Dougherty, M.D./

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 0000 0000 0713 1552 [detail]
© 2013 Joseph Dougherty, M.D./

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 0000 0000 0713 1553 [detail]
© 2013 Joseph Dougherty, M.D./

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 0000 0000 0713 1554 [detail]
© 2013 Joseph Dougherty, M.D./

Rhincodon typus
Rhincodon typus
Whale Shark
ID: 0000 0000 0713 1556 [detail]
© 2013 Joseph Dougherty, M.D./

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Common name (e.g. trout)

Genus + Species (e.g. Gadus morhua)

Rhincodon typus Smith , 1828

Whale shark Add your observation in Fish Watcher
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Pictures | Videos |     Stamps, Coins Misc. | Google image Image of Rhincodon typus (Whale shark) Rhincodon typus
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Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes ( gen. , sp. ) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays) > Orectolobiformes (Carpet sharks) > Rhincodontidae (Whale shark)
Etymology: Rhincodon: Greek, rhyngchos = snout + Greek, odous = teeth (Ref. 45335 ) .

Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range Ecology

Marine; pelagic-oceanic; oceanodromous (Ref. 51243 ); depth range 0 - 1928 m (Ref. 106604 ), usually 0 - 100 m (Ref. 89972 ).   Subtropical; 18°C - 30°C (Ref. 35465 ); 45°N - 48°S, 180°W - 180°E

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

Circumglobal, all tropical and warm temperate seas except the Mediterranean.

Identified as one of the species with an unfavorable conservation status in Appendix II of the Bonn Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals in 1999. Classified as a highly migratory species, in Annex I of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ( UNCLOS ) which called for 'coordinated management and assessment to better understand cumulative impacts of fishing effort on the status of the shared populations' of these sharks (Ref. 26139 ).

Included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora ( CITES ) since May 2003. This can partially implement the original objective of the FAO International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA-Sharks). However, international trade still exists.

Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: L m   ? , range 440 - 560 cm
Max length : 1,700 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 48722 ); 2,000.0 cm TL (female); common length : 1,000 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 12757 ); max. published weight: 34.0 t (Ref. 48722 ); max. reported age: 80 years (Ref. 116781 )

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 0; Anal spines : 0; Anal soft rays : 0. A huge, filter-feeding, blunt-headed shark with a distinct checkerboard pattern of yellow or white spots, on grey, bluish or blue-grey to green-brown back, white or yellowish underside, with horizontal and vertical stripes on back and sides of body; head broad and flat; snout short; mouth almost terminal, huge and transverse in front of eyes; prominent ridges on body, lowest terminating in a keel on caudal peduncle (Ref. 58085 , 114967 ); nostrils with rudimentary barbels; long nasoral grooves; spiracles close to and larger than eyes; 5 exceptionally large gill openings, the fifth behind pectoral fin (Ref. 110893 , 114967 ); numerous small, scale-like teeth and feeds by filtering plankton with special sieve-like modifications of the gill bars (Ref. 26938 ).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

World's largest fish, but is harmless to humans (Ref. 6871 ). Grows up to 20m (Ref. 48722 ). Often seen offshore but coming close inshore, sometimes entering lagoons or coral atolls (Ref. 247 ). Sometimes seen cruising near outer wall (Ref. 26938 ). Reported to frequent shallow water areas near estuaries and river mouths, sometimes during seasonal shrimp blooms (Ref. 48696 ). Found singly, or in aggregations of over 100 individuals (Ref. 5578 ). Often associated with groups of pelagic fishes, especially scombrids (Ref. 247 ). Highly migratory between ocean basins and national jurisdictions, but returns to the same sites annually (Ref. 48672 ). Feed on planktonic and nektonic prey, such as small fishes (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, juvenile tunas and albacore), small crustaceans and squids (Ref. 247 ). Often seen in a vertical position with the head at or near the surface when feeding (Ref. 13571 ). When actively feeding on zooplankton the sharks turn their heads from side to side, with part of the head lifted out of the water, and the mouth opened and closed 7-28 times per minute; these suction gulps were synchronized with the opening and closing of the gill slits (Ref. 35680 ). Ovoviviparous, with litter size of over 300 pups (Ref. 37816 , 43278 ). Females of 438 to 562 cm are immature (FIGIS 09/2003). Utilized fresh, frozen, dried and salted for human consumption, liver processed for oil, fins used for shark-fin soup, offal probably for fishmeal (Ref. 13571 ), cartilage for health supplements and skin for leather products (Ref. 48723 ). Used in Chinese medicine (Ref. 12166 ). Highly valued commodity in ecotourism operations. Populations have been depleted in several countries by harpoon fisheries (Ref. 48696 ). Estimated longevity of 80.4 yrs is much larger than reported maximum age 38 yrs based on vertebral bands for a female of 11.9 m TL. Maximum length of up to 21 m and weight of up to 42 tons have been reported (Ref. 116781 ), but probably the most reliably measured size so far is 12 m TL (Ref. 26319 ).

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

Distinct pairing with embrace (Ref. 205 ). Ovoviviparous (Ref. 35465 ). Embryos feed solely on yolk (Ref. 50449 ). Late term embryos shed their egg case within the uterus at a size of 58 to 64 cm TL (ovovivipary). The smallest free-living species are from 55-56 cm long, the smallest of which had an umbilical scar. A pregnant female has recently been found with 300 embryos, the largest of which were 58-64 cm (Refs. 26346, 35678).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator : Compagno, Leonard J.V. | Collaborators

Colman, J.G. , 1997. A review of the biology and ecology of the whale shark. J. Fish Biol. 51(6):1219-1234. (Ref. 26319 )

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 120744 )

  Endangered (EN)  (A2bd+4bd); Date assessed: 18 March 2016

CITES (Ref. 118484 )

Appendix II: International trade monitored

CMS (Ref. 116361 )

Appendix II: Migratory species conserved through agreements

Threat to humans

  Harmless (Ref. 6871 )

Human uses

Fisheries: commercial FAO(fisheries: species profile ; publication : search ) | FishSource | Sea Around Us

More information

FAO areas
Food items
Food consumption
Common names
Spawning aggregation
Egg development
Larval dynamics
Aquaculture profile
Allele frequencies
Mass conversion
Stamps, Coins Misc.
Swim. type
Gill area


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Estimates based on models

Preferred temperature (Ref. 115969 ): 19.6 - 29, mean 27.3 (based on 5510 cells). Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805 ):  PD 50 = 1.5000   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high]. Trophic Level (Ref. 69278 ):  3.6   ±0.5 se; Based on diet studies. Resilience (Ref. 120179 ):  Very Low, minimum population doubling time more than 14 years (K=0.02; Fec=16-300). Vulnerability (Ref. 59153 ):  Very high vulnerability (87 of 100) . Price category (Ref. 80766 ):   Unknown .

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