Basking sharks can be found in temperate waters around the globe and are the world’s second largest living fish reaching an impressive 8 metres (that’s almost the length of two cars).
Amazing Facts About the Basking Shark
- Basking sharks live in temperate (mild temperatures) waters around the world.
- Basking sharks are filter feeders. This means that they strain suspended matter (solid particles that float in water) and food from water (much like a strainer or sieve used in the kitchen). This is done by enlarging the mouth and passing water over gill rakers.
- Gill rakers are growths made from cartilage that help the shark feed and prevent loose particles from passing through the gills, helping the shark to breathe.
- Their diet consists mainly of zooplankton (tiny animals that live near the surface of water), fish eggs, barnacles and shrimp.
- Basking sharks are peaceful animals. They do not hunt other marine animals or harm humans.
- Due to their passive temperament, basking sharks have the smallest weight to brain weight ratio of any shark.
- These sharks were once over exploited for their fins, liver oil and as a source of food for humans as well as feed for livestock. This has led to a decrease in population size and they are now listed as vulnerable.
- Basking sharks can be found alone, but sometimes are found in small groups or schools of many individuals.
- Their name comes from the fact that they look like they are basking on the water surface whilst feeding.
- They have also been the subject of many myths and legends. In the past, fishermen and locals had reported sightings of seeing a sea serpent monster or a globster (an unidentified organic mass), most famously the Stronsay Beast. In actual fact, when a basking shark dies its body decomposes in a way that could resemble a sea monster! This is also known as cryptozoology.
- Type: Fish
- Diet: Filter feeder
- Life span: Over 30 years
- Size: 6-8 metres in length
- Weight: 2200kg
- Habitat: Temperate water surface
- Range: Temperate waters worldwide
- Scientific name: Cetorhinus maximus