Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sharks from Small to Huge

As I mentioned yesterday, this week is all about the celebration of sharks. And while tiger sharks and great whites may get most of the press, they are just a small part of the 400+ species' of these amazing animals. Today I thought I would show you the two bookends of the Selachimorpha (shark) superorder size-wise; the dwarf lanternshark and the whale shark.

Dwarf lanternshark - Illustration by Tambja
 The dwarf lanternshark is the smallest known shark species in the world. Found only in the southern Caribbean Sea near Venezuela and Colombia, this rare species of dogfish shark reaches a maximum length of  only eight inches and lives about 1,000 feet below the surface.

Whale shark - Photo by Zac Wolf
 On the other side of the spectrum is the massive whale shark; not only the largest shark but also the largest fish species in the world. Whale sharks of up to 41 feet in length have been confirmed, and they can weigh in excess of 79,000 pounds. In other words, they are as long as a city bus and weigh as much as 25 automobiles. Despite their massive size, whale sharks are not vicious killers. They are filter feeders and subsist mainly on a diet of plankton and small fish. They swallow massive quantities of water containing their prey when they feed, expelling the excess liquid through their gills and swallowing the leftover plankton.

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