The Basking Shark – Passively beautiful!

When one thinks of the word Shark, there is generally an air of gloom and fear that follows. Automatically we think of ‘Jaws’ and other such ridiculously over sensationalised movies and documentaries. What we forget, is that not all Sharks are Apex hunters, predators and killers. A look into the life of the non-aggressive shark may give us a greater understanding of the shark family as a whole, and perhaps curb our need to dread the magnificent creatures of the deep.

So let us take a look at a shark that is known for its reflexive personality, the Basking Shark, and it’s hauntingly beautiful size and perfection.

The Basking shark, is one of three plankton-eating sharks, and are completely harmless to humans, and actively non-aggressive. Even though this shark poses no threat to our population, we have been exploiting it for our own commercial use. They are used in great numbers for both Shark-Fin foods, and for their exceptionally oily livers. These actions alone have diminished populations completely in certain areas, and the rest are in dire need of protection from us.

Being the second largest fish in the ocean (with the Whale Shark as the largest), the male shark grows up to an impressive 10 meters long, with the female close behind at a startling 9 meters! As said above, this shark is harmless, with hundreds of tiny curved teeth that are of very little use to large prey. It’s spaciously massive mouth is kept open while the shark swims, and as large amounts of water flow into the mouth, so do small prey such as plankton, baby fish, and eggs are filtered. This process occurs thanks to the sharks Gill Rakers (thousands of bristles that are around 10cm long). The Rakers then trap the food which the shark can thereafter swallow. The overflow of water is then expelled through the 5 pairs of gill slits. This astonishing shark can hold up to 6000 litres of water per hour!!!

The Basking shark can be seen travelling alone, in pairs or even groups up to a hundred, keeping close to the water surface in coastal temperate waters, giving rise to their nickname – the Sunfish.

They also differ from other sharks by their movement. They swim really slowly, up to 5 km per hour, moving their entire body side to side, not just by their tail. The females reach sexual maturity at 2-4 years of age, even though not much is known about the way they reproduce, we have noted they produce 1-2 live young. The eggs hatch inside the female, and the baby sharks feed off unfertilised eggs, meaning they have to feed themselves even before they are born!

You can find the classification of the Basking Shark below, if you are ever lucky enough to spot these sharks, now you know they are harmless, and can be observed and enjoyed in the wild where they belong. By understanding this enormous fish, and its unique adaptions and capabilities we can hopefully save them from further population decline. These sharks play a greatly important role in the marine eco system, and buy removing them, we are disrupting the entire cycle of marine life, and sadly it is only for our greed and consumption.

Basking Shark Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia (animals) Phylum: Chordata Subphylum: Vertebrata (vertebrates) Class: Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish) Subclass: Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays) Order: Lamniformes Family: Cetorhinidae Genus: Cetorhinus  Species: maximus