The unaggressive and harmless basking shark is a filter feeder. It is the world’s second-largest shark (after the whale shark) — growing as long as 33 feet (10 meters) with big jaws as wide as 3.3 feet (1 meter). They are slow-moving sharks, moving their whole bodies (rather than just the tail) from side to side as they swim. The liver of this shark makes up 25% of its body weight and runs through the whole length of the stomach, and its gills almost surround its whole head.
The basking shark has tiny teeth which are curved backward and are rather useless. It feeds by simply swimming through the water with its giant mouth gaping open. This lets in water that is filled with its prey, including plankton, baby fish and fish eggs. Once it closes its mouth, the water is filtered out through its gill rakers and the nourishment remains, and the shark then swallows its meal. More than five thousand gill rakers are used to strain around 400,000 gallons (1.5 million liters) of water per hour!
Basking sharks eggs hatch inside the mother’s womb (called ovoviviparous birth). Since there is no placenta to nourish them, the hatchlings have to find another way to support themselves before birth, so they use their tiny teeth to feed on the as yet unfertilized eggs in the womb. The young are about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long at birth and are ready to swim away immediately after.
Basking Sharks Videos
The YouTube video below contains a playlist of 3 videos to have a look at, the list of videos featured is underneath.
- Basking Sharks Cornwall – Great footage of a basking shark off the coast of Cornwall in the UK. More information is provided at www.sharktrust.org/en/basking_shark_project/
- UK Shark is bigger than a Great White – Sharks – BBC – Steve Leonard takes a canoe along the UK coast line to swim with a shark that is known as the second biggest fish on the planet and larger than the notorious Great White.
- Basking Sharks and other wildlife in Western Scotland – This footage is from Frankie Fok when he snorkeled with rare basking sharks in western Scotland.