Whale Sharks are greyish, bluish or brownish above, with an upper surface pattern of creamy white spots between pale, vertical and horizontal stripes. The belly is white. The function of the distinctive pattern of body mark is unknown. Many bottom-dwelling sharks have bold and disruptive body markings that act as camouflage through disruptive coloration.
The whale shark’s markings could be a result of its evolutionary relationship with bottom dwelling carpet sharks. Distinctive markings in a pelagic species could be linked to social activities such as postural displays and recognition processes. Another possibility is that these pigment patterns could be an adaptation for radiation shielding, important in a species that may spend a significant proportion of time in surface waters possibly exposed to high levels of ultraviolet radiation.