Description: The massive Basking Shark is the world’s second largest fish. Only the Whale Shark is larger. The Basking Shark is mostly brown or gray above and whitish below. Its most striking characteristics are its gigantic mouth, and long, pointed snout. It can grow to a length of 33 feet, though most individuals range from 20-26 feet in length. The Basking Shark can weigh between 5-10 tons, though at least one individual caught in a fishing net weighed an estimated 19 tons. Basking Sharks are often observed with heavy scarring, probably from encounters with lampreys or other sharks. The Basking Shark’s huge liver accounts for up to 25% of its body weight and is thought to aid in buoyancy regulation and energy storage. Like the Whale Shark, the Basking Shark is a slow swimmer and has thousands of teeth, only a small amount of which are useful. Despite its large size, the Basking Shark is harmless to humans. In fact, Basking Sharks will not even get out of the way of approaching boats. Although they have few predators, Orcas and tiger sharks occasionally attack.
Diet: The Basking Shark is a filter feeder. It filters up to 2,000 tons of water per hour and consumes the left over zooplankton, small fish and invertebrates.
Range/Habitat: The Basking Shark is found throughout the world in boreal, tropical, and temperate oceans. It generally prefers water between 46 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit. It frequently patrols waters close to shore and will even enter bays. Basking Shark are highly migratory (in search of plankton), but apparently stay near the ocean floor in fall and winter.
Reproduction: Very little is known about the reproductive process of the Basking Shark. Scientists do know that the Basking Shark is ovoviviparous (young develop within eggs inside the mother’s body). The gestation period (length of time in which the young remain inside the mother) is thought to last from between one and three years. Basking Sharks probably breed every two to four years and reach reproductive maturity between the ages of 6 and 13.