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Swim with whale sharks at Georgia Aquarium | News

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Swim with whale sharks at Georgia Aquarium
News, Urban Wildlife
Swim with whale sharks at Georgia Aquarium

(WXIA) -- To travel to a different civilization, where oxygen is scarce and inhabitants seem alien, you don't need a spaceship. Instead, you need a steady air supply and an explorer's curiosity to go beneath the surface.

We're the guests below water, and the whale shark is the fearless king.

"You get close and realize, face to face with animals, they are truly majestic and not fearsome," said Chris Duncan with the Georgia Aquarium's Dive Immersion Program team.

Like any world leader, some are fierce. Others are misunderstood.

"Most of them have no interest in eating people at all," said Georgia Aquarium Director of Research and Conservation Dr. Alistair Dove.

The Georgia Aquarium is home to four whale sharks. Visitors can float beside them all.

"The largest fish in the ocean, right here in Atlanta, Georgia," Duncan said.

The giant of the sea stare divers right in the eye, seemingly unimpressed. They don't have a taste for humans. Whale sharks are vegetarians, craving plankton and eating enough of it to help keep the oceans from overgrowing in green. Their wide mouths are lined with 3,000 teeth that are about as sharp as Velcro.

"They have nothing to do with the way a whale shark feeds," Dove said of the teeth. "They are just leftover remnants from evolution, and they are very, very tiny."

But "tiny" is not the word to describe anything else about a creature that grows to the size of a MARTA bus. They have powerful tails and rough dotted skin, and create waves of awestruck wonder that wash over those lucky enough to swim in their wake.

"It's unbelievable -- one of the best experiences in the entire world," Duncan said.

News, Urban Wildlife