Open wide... but not TOO wide please: Feeding time for giant whale shark


Snack attack: A diver feeds whale shark Hachibei during a training session at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise Aquarium in Yokohama, Tokyo

On first appearances, this diver's task seems a little daunting - as he pours a bucket of plankton into the gaping mouth of a whale shark that looks like it could swallow him whole.

But despite its size, Hachibei, who at five metres is among the world's largest and rarest species, is completely harmless.

Feeding time: The rare five-metre long fish is the latest visitor attraction at the marine park in Tokyo bay

The shark is the latest visitor attraction at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise Aquarium on the edge of Yokohama Bay in suburban Tokyo.

The aquarium is one of the largest in Japan and is also home to an amusement park, including a rollercoaster which swings out over the ocean.

The largest confirmed whale shark was 12.65 metres but it is thought they can grow to considerably greater lengths.

A quick bite: A keeper feeds the whale shark on a mixture of algae, plankton and krill

The shark is found in tropical waters and lives for around 70 years. They feed mainly on plankton, microscopic plants and sometimes small fish.

It has a cavernous mouth that can be up to 1.5 metres wide and contains between 300 and 350 rows of tiny teeth.

The whale shark does not pose a significant danger to humans - and sometimes allow swimmers to hitch a ride.

Friendly: Despite being a shark, the creature does not pose a risk to humans

source: dailymail