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Interesting Facts about the Basking Shark

[Phylum: Chordata] [Class: Chondrichthyes] [Subclass: Elasmobranchii] [Order: Lamniformes]

With an open mouth measuring up to one metre wide (3 feet), it's fair to say the second largest fish species might appear somewhat menacing to the uninformed.

This segment contains a collection of interesting things about basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), including what they eat, where they live, and how they reproduce.

Distribution and Habitats of Basking Sharks

Scientific evidence shows that basking sharks do not 'hibernate'. Yet, it is a cosmopolitan migratory species that lives in all temperate oceans.

As a result, the summer months are the best time to see these gigantic filter-feeding sharks lazing in nutrient-rich coastal waters, especially:

Even though this giant omnivore will cross through warm waters at the equator, they spend most of their life in the boreal ecosystems (subarctic climates) and brackish waters of the northern hemisphere.

Despite its colossal size, the basking shark will show itself in shallow bays close to headlands and estuaries. But, it can also tolerate life in deep cold water, approaching depths of 915 metres (3,000 feet) and temperatures of eight Celsius (46° Fahrenheit).

Basking Shark Characteristics and Behaviour

The lamniform body shape of large mackerel sharks can assimilate them with the great white. But, basking sharks have a much wider, gaping jaw (up to one metre in width) and elongated gill slits.

The upper jaw contains six (6) rows of teeth, and there are another nine (9) rows below it. As a result, most adult species will have around 1,500 hooked teeth.

In case you were wondering:

There's no shortage of fish with funny names, and the scientific name of the basking shark is Cetorhinus maximus.

In Greek language, a rough translation is the "sea monster with a big nose" floating near the surface of the water. Yet, the name could come from the way that this slow-swimming, dark grey-brown fish appears to be "basking in the sun" as it feeds.

Fun Fact: Excluding the magnificent whale shark (Rhincodon typus), the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the largest surviving fish species in the world.

Basking Shark Size and Weight

An average size for an adult basking shark is eight (8) metres long (26 feet). Even so, it's common for some of the largest specimens to reach eleven (11) metres in length (36 feet) and weigh more than four (4) tons.

Basking Shark Interesting Facts and Information with PicturesThe United Kingdom's only fatal shark encounter came from a breaching basking shark in 1937 when it capsized a boat and caused the deaths of three people onboard.

So, what animal kills the most humans in the world? Well, it's definitely not the basking shark!

What Do Basking Sharks Eat?

As these ram feeders swim forward, their gill rakers filter out, and trap, planktonic organisms, small aquatic invertebrates, such as copepods, and a variety of tiny fish species.

Even with a slow swimming speed of about three (3) kilometres per hour, basking sharks with a wide open mouth, are able to filter up to two thousand short ton (tn) of seawater in an hour.

Pro Tip: The index sections contain many more examples of vertebrate fish with extra information about how the different types of marine invertebrates influence the food chain in aquatic environments.

How Do Basking Sharks Reproduce?

Marine biologists believe basking sharks reach sexual maturity after the age of six, or when they have grown to be at least five metres long.

They are an ovoviviparous fish species (egg producing) that breeds in pairs consisting of a single male and a single female.

Here's the thing:

The mating rituals begin in early summertime when the water gets warmer. A typical gestation period is more than one year and the birthing usually takes place in shallow water before the following fall (autumn) - or even one year after.

Like most shark species, mating scars seen on a female basking shark suggests the male uses its teeth for holding on during the fertilisation process.

Threats and Predators

The average lifespan of the basking shark could be up to fifty (50) years. Nonetheless, they are listed as being an endangered species.

Some of the major threats to the long term survival of the basking shark species worldwide, include:

Important: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is a comprehensive source of information about the global conservation status of animals, fungi, and plants. In 2018, IUCN listed the global status of the basking shark (C. maximus) as "Endangered" (EN).

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