Let’s Talk About It…The Basking Shark

I so enjoyed talking about the biggest Great White Shark, Deep Blue, ever captured on film, that I decided to go find other massive sharks.
Sure not Great Whites, but you would be interested to know, that the Whale Shark, is not the only huge shark about! And the Basking Shark certainly has a big mouth about it! No, I literally mean a big mouth; their mouths measure up to 3 plus feet across! A mouth that has been perfectly adapted to filter feeding, like those of the other two plankton eating sharks, the whale and megamouth sharks, another big mouth.

The Basking Shark swims with its mouth open, (remember when we were told to close ours, ‘cos we would catch flies) well, this shark catches plankton and other small organisms on bristles that are to be found on the massive gill slits, which filter as much as 5000 plus litres of water hourly while feeding. The Basking Sharks mouth contains hundreds of small, backwards-hooked teeth that are there for display purposes only as they are of little or no use. The short, cone shaped snout of this slow-moving monster shark, is often seen near the surface of the water, where it feeds.

Reaching more than 10 meters in length and 3620 plus kilograms, it could strike fear into the hearts of man, and often does, but for no reason at all, this shark is harmless to humans! Though it has in the past been confused for a Great White when it’s dorsal fin breaks water, being a surface feeder, there are a number of distinct differences. Namely, the nose, the eyes and the colour, not to mention the size, sounds like pretty much everything right, but I guess the hype around the Great White is reason enough to fabricate this massive, monster, mega great white sighting. Just know, if anyone does mention having seen a 10 meter Great White, it was probably a Basking Shark.

Though these sharks are ready to reproduce by the age of 3 years, almost half the age of other sharks, they have a gestation period of 3 years, almost double that of other sharks, so I guess it kind of evens out. They migrate to warmer waters when giving birth to their live pups and will do so in schools of up to 100 sharks.

Basking sharks are considered vulnerable and require our concerted efforts to keep them in our oceans, doing what it is they do best; cleaning our oceans of any and all debris, a little like a kreepy krawley in your pool.

Come and experience Great White sharks in their natural environment with the assistance of scuba gear, with us in Simons Town, and change how you think about these magnificent creatures.

Till we meet again, keep that toothy grin!

By Nadine Bentley