Facts: The Basking Shark

Facts: The Basking Shark


The basking shark is the second largest fish
in the world. Only whale sharks are larger. Most basking sharks do not exceed 30 ft (9
m) long, but they have been credited as reaching over 40 ft (12 m). These sharks may look intimidating, but these
gentle giants are actually harmless to humans. They are typically found in temperate coastal
waters from the surface down to 6500 ft (2000m) deep. Basking sharks are filter feeders. They are often spotted swimming openmouthed
at the surface, filtering out zooplankton like krill from the water. They may also feed on plankton in deeper waters. Their gill slits are so large that they nearly
encircle their head. Their gills contain bristle-like gill rakers
that are used to catch the plankton as the seawater filters out. These sharks are highly migratory. Their movement may be in response to changes in
plankton densities. Not much is known about the life cycle of
basking sharks. They are ovoviviparous, meaning that embryos
get their nutrition from a yolk sac during development. It is unknown where females reside when they
are pregnant because they are rarely caught or seen. Gestation is thought to last around 3 years. Then, an estimated 1 to 6 young are born live,
already about 5 ft (1.5 m) long. Their lifespan is thought to be around 50
years. Basking sharks have a large liver filled with
oil to aid with buoyancy. They have been exploited commercially for
centuries, mainly for their valuable liver oil. They may also be caught for their skin, meat,
and fins. Their history of exploitation has drastically
decreased their populations. They are currently listed as vulnerable to
becoming endangered throughout their range. Their low reproductive rate and slow growth
rate makes it hard for their populations to recover. Today, many areas have laws protecting basking
sharks. They are still often entangled in fishing
nets or killed by boats. Sometimes basking sharks are seen leaping
from the water, which may be a way to rid their body of parasites like sea lampreys. For more marine facts, click the SUBSCRIBE
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