Whale sharks are the world’s largest omnivores, scientists say

Whale sharks are the largest shark species in the world, and now scientists have discovered that giant sharks are even more prodigious eating machines than previously thought. As well as swallowing huge mouthfuls of krill – tiny shrimp-like crustaceans – whale sharks also gobble up huge portions of algae, allowing the aquatic giants to officially dethrone the Kodiak bears (Middendorff Bear) as the largest omnivores in the world.

The researchers made the discovery by analyzing the whale shark (type of rhinoceros) skin samples collected near Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. These gargantuan sharks are the largest fish in the sea, weighing up to 40 tons (36 metric tons) and reaching around 40 feet (12 meters) in length on average, according to the National Ocean Service. Until now, scientists thought the gentle giants were primarily filter feeders, opening their cavernous mouths wide to swallow about 21,200 cubic feet (600 cubic meters) of water per hour. Then, filtering the water through their gills, the sharks find themselves with mouthfuls of plankton, shrimp, small fish and crustaceans to swallow.

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