We love macro life, but the ocean’s biggest animals are awfully charismatic as well. Here are our five favorite big animals that you might see in the ocean.
The blue whale is simply the biggest animal that has ever lived on the planet. With a maximum length of around 100 feet (30 m) and a weight close to 200 tons, a blue whale’s size is comparable to a Boeing 737 aircraft. Can you imagine finding yourself in the water next to a plane-sized animal?
Funnily enough, these gigantic creatures feed on some of the ocean’s smallest animals, krill, which they filter through the baleen they have in their mouth. On a good day, an adult blue whale can eat up to 4 tons of krill.
There are five known subspecies of blue whale, which you can find in the North Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the Antarctic Ocean, North Indian Ocean, as well as areas around Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand.
Some of the world’s other biggest whale species include the sperm whale and the fin whale.
Despite its name, the whale shark belongs exclusively to the shark species, and it’s the largest known shark at that. Averaging over 59 feet (18 m), it is the largest non-mammalian vertebrate. Like blue whales, whale sharks are also filter feeders and live on a diet of plankton and small fishes.
Whale sharks enjoy tropical and warm, temperate waters. They are mainly pelagic, but seasonal aggregations occur when the sharks congregate to feed. On these occasions, divers and snorkelers may see hundreds of whale sharks gathered in the same place for a collective feeding frenzy. Popular areas for encounters include the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico, Mozambique, and Western Australia.
Also known as killer whales, orcas are toothed whales belonging to the oceanic dolphin family. These instantly recognizable animals are one of the ocean’s biggest predators, along with the great white shark. They can reach up to 26 feet (8 m) long and weigh 6 tons. On top of the food chain, they have no known predators in the ocean. They feed on other animals such as seals, dolphins, whales, and more.
They are present in all the world’s oceans in diverse environments. Highly social and intelligent, they live usually in pods of up to a dozen individuals that remain together for most of their lives.
Weird and wonderful sums up the mola mola, also called the sunfish, perfectly. With a weight that can top a ton, this is the biggest bony fish species in the world, and arguably one of the weirdest looking. Scientists also think that they have the largest growth percentage in the animal kingdom: a mola mola larvae is only about 2 mm big, but within months it grows millions of times to reach its adult size, with a fin-to-fin length that can be over 8 feet (2.5 m).
Mola molas usually enjoy deep, colder waters, but they can hang out close to the surface at certain times of year or in areas of the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, or even in the Mediterranean Sea. Some of the best places to spot them reliably are Bali and the Galapagos.
Only a few countries consider their flesh a delicacy and, despite their huge size, they do have several natural predators, such as orcas and sharks. They feed mainly on small fish, crustaceans and squids.
Giant manta ray
Granted, the giant oceanic manta ray might not be as big as some whales, but it is the biggest ray of all. The biggest individuals can reach a disk size of 23 feet (7 m) across, which can make you feel like a spaceship is flying above your head if you ever have the chance to dive with one.
Like their cousins, reef mantas, they feed mainly on plankton, which they scoop up with their cephalic fins, located closed to their mouth. The common traits between the two species are many, but oceanic manta rays are usually bigger and have distinctive markings on their backs and bellies.
Lucky divers can see them in tropical waters all around the world, in places such as Japan, Mexico, Egypt, Peru, South Africa, Indonesia, and New Zealand. A popular spot to dive with them is Isla de la Plata in Ecuador.