Whale sharks are the largest shark and incidentally, largest fish species in the world too. They can grow up to 20 metres in length but they average at around 5 to 10 metres, and can weigh around 11 tons. Although they are sharks, they are filter feeders like whales which mean they feed on tiny creatures like plankton.
Whale sharks have a flattened head with a blunt snout and very short sensory whiskers like catfish have called barbels. Their body can have a grey to brown colouration with white spots and pale stripes, and a white belly. Much like human fingerprints, the spots patterns of each whale shark is unique to the individual.
These gentle giants roam the oceans often travelling thousands of kilometres, often alone, to feed and reproduce. Like other sharks, whale sharks produce eggs and females give birth to live young, although it's never been observed. Because of fishing and other threats, they are classified as endangered and are a protected species.
Although they are frequently spotted among some Maldives islands, still little is known about them. However, the Maldives has a very active whale shark research and conservation effort in the form of the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP).