What do whale sharks eat?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “What do whale sharks eat?” We will also discuss the amount of food whale sharks eat, their feeding habits, and whether they are dangerous to humans.

What do whale sharks eat?

Whale sharks mostly eat different types of tiny plants, fish, fish eggs, or other animals that are around when they open their huge mouth while feeding. Whale sharks are filter feeders that consume large quantities of fish all at once by swimming with their massive jaws open and filtering through what they want to eat.

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean, so their appetite is also pretty huge. While whale sharks eat any tiny fish, their favorite food is plankton. Whale sharks will travel long distances merely to consume a significant amount of plankton when it blooms. 

They usually swarm off the coasts of Belize and the Yucatan peninsula, near the reefs, every year between May and August to supplement their plankton diet with red snapper roes. The diet of whale sharks consists of different foods including Plankton, Small shrimp, Krill, Jellyfish, Coral, Crab, larvae, Algae, Sardines, Anchovies, Small tuna, Squid, Fish eggs, Plants, and Algae.

How much do whale sharks eat?

Whale sharks are believed to consume up to 45 pounds of plankton in a single day, which is merely 2% of their body weight. Whale sharks are enormous creatures. As a result, they require a lot of food to keep them full. 

However, their massive size allows them to store more energy and travel longer distances than other fish. Whale sharks frequently move to places in the water where plankton blooms or coral eggs hatch.

It is believed that their enormous size helps them in their journey. Some whale sharks may struggle to find a lot of food while traveling, therefore their bulk helps them get to their goal and feast on plankton when they arrive.

Whale sharks are slow swimmers, with an average speed of three miles per hour. As a result, eating enough and saving energy is critical for them.

What are the feeding habits of whale sharks?

The whale shark is one of three enormous filter-feeding sharks, the others being the megamouth shark and the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus). Whale sharks devour little food with their tiny teeth and their gill rakers which operate as a suction filter enabling them to thrive as filter feeders. They can be found looking for food at or near the ocean’s surface. 

Its large mouth is well adapted to filter eating, and each jaw includes almost 300 rows of small, sharp teeth. These teeth are considered vestigial and do not play a role in feeding. Whale sharks cannot bite or chew their food, they just swallow it whole. This is the reason why they prefer tiny fish and plankton to large fishes.

Seawater enters the shark’s mouth cavity and filters through the gill slits as it swims with its mouth open. The interior gill slits’ mesh-like tissue serves like a sieve. This helps to capture all the plankton and other microscopic animals while allowing water to pass through and return to the sea. This is a perfect example of passive feeding.

Learn more about the feeding habits of whale sharks here.

Are whale sharks dangerous to humans?

No, sharks are not dangerous to humans. Irrespective of what most people think when they hear about sharks, it’s important to understand that not all sharks are ruthless predators, and not all sharks are harmful to humans.

Whale sharks are mostly carnivores, yet they only consume tiny fish and plant life. Their feeding habits do not include devouring larger animals or humans. Whale sharks are typically said to as gentle creatures, they do not attack you unless you do something to harm them. Even though they are the largest fish in the water, and have been known to be friendly to humans in the ocean.

Whale sharks and humans typically show a friendly relationship in the ocean. It has been observed that adventurers frequently enjoy swimming with whale sharks with no problems. Whale sharks usually roam around the sea without showing any reactions to humans. This clearly shows that whale sharks pose no threat to people.


In this brief guide, we have answered the query, “What do whale sharks eat?” We have also discussed the amount of food whale sharks eat, their feeding habits, and whether they are dangerous to humans.