The basking shark is the second biggest shark species after the whale shark. But it's teeth are tiny. It feeds by scooping up microscopic plankton in its 1 meter wide mouth as it roams the cool and temperate zones of the northern and southern hemispheres. It swims at about 3 mph, traveling great distances to feed. A 6 ton shark filters 1000 tons of water per hour, with 5000 gill rakers(bristled structures) to strain out the plankton. It is ironic that the very largest sharks and whales should depend on the very smallest creatures for their livelihood.
Basking Sharks roam in small groups (3-4 of the same sex). They have few known predators. Young hatch inside the mother and emerge alive. They are a mottled dark-brown to blue-black in color above, dull white below. They grow up to 26 feet in length. They have large crescent-moon shaped tails. Their brain size is relatively small for their great bodies. They typically have scarring from lamprey and cookiecutter shark bites.
They were fished for their gigantic livers - up to 25% of total body weight. Also long dorsal and pectoral fins up to 2 meters long were collected as an Asian delicacy. Basking Sharks are rated as a vulnerable species. Slow reproduction rate impedes recovery where heavy fishing has occurred.
Sources: "Basking Shark Videos, Photos and Facts." ARKive. Marine Conservation Society, 18 June 2005. Web. 05 Sept. 2016.
"Basking Shark." bbc.co.uk. BBC, Oct. 2014. Web. 5 Sept. 2016.
"Basking Shark." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Aug. 2016. Web. 05 Sept. 2016.
Photo: Gotschalk, Chris. "File:Basking Shark.jpg." Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Dec. 2014. Web. 5 Sept. 2016.