Whale sharks are magnificent animals that only the lucky few will ever see in the wild. Growing to an incredible 18m (55 feet) in length and weighing an estimated 45,000kg (100,000lbs) they complete dwarf humans. To be in their presence is awe inspiring, and often an emotional experience. Few people get to swim with these gentle giants, but even fewer will actually see the juveniles. Whale sharks come to the eaters surrounding Wolf Island and Darwin Island in the Galapagos. There is an abundance of plankton and other food here, brought by the convergence of three strong ocean currents. But it is not the food that lures these great beasts to this remote corner of the world. Scientists do not know much about how or where whale sharks are born. They do know that whale sharks do not exhibit feeding behaviours here because they are not seen with their mouths open, filtering for food. Almost every whale shark found in these waters is a mature, pregnant female. They females may come here to give birth, but they young are never found here. This juvenile whale shark is only a few years old. Although it is already immense, it has a lot of growing to do. Curious and unafraid, this youngster playfully circles a group of scuba divers, seemingly interested in getting a better look at these strange creatures. The scuba divers are delighted with the interaction, knowing that this will probably be the only time that they see a young whale shark in its natural environment.
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