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Basking Shark

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

Basking Shark

The mysterious Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the second largest shark in the ocean. The Whale shark is the largest. The Basking shark is also known as the Sunfish, the Bone shark, the Elephant shark, the Sailfish shark, and the Big Mouth shark depending on which part of the world you happen to find them. The Basking shark gets its name due to being slow moving and enjoying time basking in the sun. It is uncommon to see such a large shark so close to the surface. Moreover, sometimes the basking shark even jumps out of the water. Researchers believe this is done in an effort to remove as many parasites as possible.

Basking shark anatomy and appearance

Basking sharks can weigh up to 7000 kg and the maximum reported size of a Basking shark is 12 meters. However, most adult basking sharks do not exceed 10 meters. Aside from their large size, basking sharks are characterized by their powerful crescent-shaped tail, extremely large mouth, pointed nose and five huge gill slits which almost encircle the head. Typically the Basking shark has a greyish-brownish color but this can range through to slate grey or black on the dorsal surface. Irregular patches, patterns and streaks mark the sharks flanks and fins while the ventral (underside) of these sharks are predominantly lighter than the dorsal. The Basking shark has a particularly large liver that accounts for up to 25% of its body weight. This large liver provides the shark with near-neutral buoyancy.

Habitat of Basking sharks

Basking sharks thrive in waters that ranges from warm to cool in temperature. In addition, they prefer to swim close to the shore and also enjoy swimming near the water’s surface. In fact, they like being near the surface so much, that “sunfish” is their nickname. These sharks often travel through the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Sea of Japan, near New Zealand, and Southern Australia. Basking sharks travel alone, in pairs, or in shivers (groups) of up to 100 members. One of the best places to swim or dive with Basking sharks is Scotland.

By Chris_huh - Compagno, Leonard; Dando, Marc & Fowler, Sarah (2005). Sharks of the World