The basking shark is one of a few species that lives in temperate latitudes, both north and south of the equator, but not between these two zones in the tropics. However, scientists believe that the individuals in these two zones are all the same species, so it is likely that at least some individuals (perhaps males) that spend part of the year in the deep sea move back and forth between the two hemispheres without ever coming to the surface. Throughout some parts of their range (e.g., both coasts of North America), basking sharks are uncommon and solitary, but during some seasons and places (e.g., the UK in the summer), they can be fairly common and form large groups.

Basking sharks are amazing creatures found throughout the world’s oceans. They are not only the second largest fish in the world but also the only shark to passively filter feed. While not everything is known about the basking shark due to its secretive nature, there are plenty of interesting facts to find out about this species. Here are eight basking shark facts to blow your mind and show how incredible this shark can be. 

he basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the second-largest fish in the ocean, after the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). It’s common name derives from its habit of feeding at the surface, appearing to be basking in the warmer water there. That’s not the only interesting information about the basking shark: It has anatomical adaptations for filter feeding, such as a greatly enlarged mouth and highly developed gill rakers. They weigh between 6,600 and 13,000 pounds. Here are more fun facts about this slow-moving filter-feeder.

Physical Characteristics & Color Of A Basking Shark

Basking sharks are often mistaken for great white sharks. The most significant difference is the basking shark’s massive jaw, measuring more than 3 feet. They also have long gill slits that encircle their entire heads, which they use to feed with the help of hundreds of gill rakers. Typically the basking shark is much longer and thinner than great whites and have smaller eyes.

Lifespan & Reproduction Of A Basking Shark

Scientists know little about the basking shark. No one is sure how long they live, but experts say it’s probably about 50 years. Basking sharks reach maturity when they are 6 to 13 years old and breed every two to four years, usually in summer.

When a female basking shark becomes pregnant, the shark pups inside her feed on other unfertilized eggs inside her womb, which is called oophagy. Oddly, the female’s right ovary is the only reproductive organ to function. No one knows precisely why.

Females carry their pups from one to three years (the longest gestation period of any animal) and will give birth to several young. The pups are fully developed sharks when they are born and can reach lengths of up to five feet. However, scientists don’t have a firm number on the average litter size, although their best guess is around six.

What Class Of Animal Does A Basking Shark Belong To?

Basking shark belongs to the Chondrichthyes class of animals.

How Many Basking Sharks Are There In The World?

The main threat of basking sharks is humans because of their fin being used in shark fin soup, liver oil, and meat, and they are often killed by boats or get caught in nets. They have been listed as an Endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN. In the regions of  Atlantic Canada, the current population is estimated to be around 10,000 animals of this species.

Where Does The Basking Shark Live?

Basking sharks follow concentrations of plankton. That means they live in most of the world’s oceans, including the Mediterranean Sea. Basking sharks like water between 46°F and 58°F, however people have seen them in warmer water. It’s thought basking sharks may migrate to and from temperate latitudes on both sides of the equator.

How Big Is A Basking Shark?

The Basking Shark is the second-largest water animal in the world, after the whale shark. An adult Basking Shark can grow up to a length of 26 ft (7.9 m). The Basking Shark size may also differ from individual to individual with some reaching the length of 30-36 ft (9–11 m).

How Fast Can A Basking Shark Swim?

Basking Sharks are slow swimmers because of their heavy size and weight. They use their whole body, and not just their tails, to move from side to side. They can only move as fast as 3 mph (5 kmph). But although they can’t move fast, they can jump almost entirely out of the water, a technique which according to experts is meant to dislodge parasites.

How Much Does A Basking Shark Weigh?

Basking Sharks are huge creatures and the average weight of an adult basking shark is  11464 lb or 5200 kg. In 1851, in Canada, the largest ever animal of the species of this animal was recorded, which weighed almost 16 tons.

What Do Basking Sharks Eat?

Believe it or not, basking sharks do have small teeth – hundreds of them. However, they do not use them when feeding. Instead, basking sharks swim with their mouths open and catch plankton as their primary diet and source of food. It is one of three plankton-eating sharks along with the whale shark and megamouth shark. A common question is whether basking sharks can close their mouths, and the answer is yes. They have to in order to filter out excess water through their gills.

Are Basking Sharks Dangerous?

Despite their large size and threatening appearance, basking sharks are not aggressive and are harmless to divers and snorkelers, just like whale sharks. And though they are large and slow, these sharks can breach, jumping entirely out of the water.

How Do They Reproduce?

The mating season for Basking Sharks is generally considered to be the time of early summer, and by late summer, birthing occurs. These animals have a different process of reproduction, wherein the developing embryos have no placental connection and rely on the yolk sac. The right ovary in a female Basking Shark, is the only one to function, although the reason behind this, is unknown. The gestation period may last as long as one to three years. They reach their sexual maturity at two to four years old.

What Is Their Conservation Status?

The Basking Sharks have been killed over the years for their fin, liver oil and meat, by human beings, as a result of which their number dropped drastically. Although several preservation plans have been drafted to promote effective conservation, they remain listed as an Endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN.

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