Whale sharks are the largest sharks and even the largest fish in all oceans. Except for a few whale species, there are no such large animals. But despite their gigantic size, the gentle and harmless creatures cannot bite or harm a person except by accident. This scuba diver narrowly missed being one of the rare casualties of such an accident. The gigantic tail scurries past him and turns just in time to back out of the way of the large creature’s tail. Whale sharks live in nearly all tropical and subtropical waters in the world. They travel great distances for feeding, mating and other reasons. But the Galapagos Islands are a very popular destination for whale sharks, especially for pregnant females. This large female was observed near Darwin Island and casually passed through a group of divers exploring the island’s edge at a depth of 20 m (65 feet). The shark spun lazily as it swam near the excited group, and each of the divers reacted with great interest as they took a closer look at this beautiful creature. They swim in complete awe and move around to get a clearer view and also to get out of the way. They realize that they have encountered one of the largest and heaviest animals in the world and must be careful that the animal does not collide with them. One of the divers looks to his right for a short while, and at that moment the shark turns and flings its huge tail to the right. The tail is about to collide solidly with him when he looks and adapts just in time. He can’t move fast enough to create distance, so he traps himself in a ball and rolls sideways in hopes of mitigating the impact and protecting his face and scuba mask. Luckily, the tail missed him by a few inches and was unharmed. The whale shark slowly swims away, probably unaware of the near miss with the clumsy human behind it. Whale sharks are filter feeders. While feeding, they swim with their mouths open and consume small fish, eggs, plankton and shrimp. They have no teeth and do not bite. The only way to defend themselves is to take down a predator such as a shark or orca and occasionally dive deep while avoiding danger. Whale sharks are capable of descending more than 500 meters (1,600 feet). They have been recorded at depths of more than 1,900 m (6,300 feet), making them the deepest diving fish ever recorded. The whale shark is not fully understood. Scientists estimate their lifespan to be between 80 and 130 years. They can reach a maximum size of 18 m (62 ft), but their maximum weight is only an estimate. How and where they give birth to their young is a mystery, and very few baby whale sharks have ever been observed. Even mating behaviors are rarely witnessed. Whale shark research is becoming increasingly important as we try to conserve and protect these giants as their numbers dwindle. Losing them forever would be beyond a tragedy.