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Whale sharkS
Some Other marine life

in waters off the coast 
of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

With notes compiled by Armas Hill


Birds of the Yucatan Region of Mexico

Birds of Cozumel Island, Mexico

Mexican Mammals & Other Wildlife, including Amphibians & Reptiles

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Mexico & Belize


A mouth of a Whale Shark 
photographed during a FONT tour
(photo by Marie Gardner)  


The Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus, is the largest known fish in the world, and the largest known cold-blooded vertebrate.. It can reach up to 14 meters (42 feet) in length, but typical adults are between 7 meters (21 feet) and 10 meters (30 feet) long.
It has an enormous head, that is wedge-shaped in side profile, flat-fronted, and squarish from above, and it has small barbets, and a cavernous mouth-opening 1.5 meters (almost 6 feet) wide. (See photo above.)
There are hundreds of tiny, hook-like teeth in each jaw.
Its eyes are inconspicuous, closed by retracting and rotating the eyeball backwards in its socket.
The tail-fin of the fish is huge, about one-third of the total body length.    

Another name for the fish is the Domino Shark, coming from its distinctive black skin covered in rows of white dots.

The lifespan of the Whale Shark is long. It can typically live into its 70s.

The Whale Shark is a true shark. Its name, of course, is due to its large size. Unlike vicious Great White Sharks, Whale Sharks are gentle filter-feeders. Plankton is its primary food. When feeding, Whale Sharks glide in circles, as they simply suck up whatever small sea-life is front of them.

Often seen accompanying Whale Sharks are young Golden Trevally, Gnathanodon speciosus.  

Although Whale Sharks populate the tropical zone around the globe, the shallow waters off the north coast of the Mexican province of Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan Peninsula, is the ONLY PLACE in the world where a very large population gathers. They occur, there, in pods of ten or twenty, and it has been estimated that total number there, in the waters, is MORE THAN 200. This apparently is due to the swirling waters where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic Ocean. Those waters teem with plankton, noted as the Whale Shark's favored food.

The highest number of Whale Sharks off the northern Yucatan Peninsula is said to be in the summer, although it does occur at other times.

Other notable fish and marine-life also occur in those waters. Over a hundred significant marine species live there including: swordfish, snapper, bonefish, tarpon, and mackerel

A variety of sharks cruise the reefs off the Yucatan Peninsula, as do a variety of rays. 

Sharks there include Tiger Sharks and Nurse Sharks. Others in the West Atlantic Ocean include: Lemon, Reef, Bull, Blacktip, Whitetip, Blue, Silky, and Hammerhead.    

Rays that are common in the tropical West Atlantic Ocean include: Stingrays, Eagle Rays, and Cownose Rays
The Spotted Eagle Ray is one of the most striking and attractive.
Manta Rays, or "Devil Rays", are common around outer reefs. In spite of the name "Devil Ray", mantas are large, docile creatures. They reach up to 22 feet from wingtip to wingtip. 
Manta Rays have large mouth flaps that are movable and guide food to the slot-like mouth. There are hundreds of tiny pillar-shaped teeth in the lower jaw only. 
Manta Rays waters in which they feed on small crustaceans and other planktonic food. They seem graceful as they glide through the water, and sometimes they can be seen leaping clear of the water's surface.   


There are upcoming FONT birding & nature tours to areas with reefs & marine-life in the Yucatan Region in Mexico, and in nearby Belize. For info, you may click the link at top of this page.   

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Web page by Risė Hill