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Table of Contents
Enchanted Learning
All About Sharks!

Geologic Time Chart
Introduction to Sharks Introduction to Rays Anatomy Shark and Ray Species Extreme Sharks Extinct Sharks Classification Shark Glossary Shark Index Printables, Worksheets, and Activities

ALL ABOUT SHARKS!
What is a Shark? Shark Information Sheets Shark Printouts to Color Evolution of Sharks Extreme Sharks

BASKING SHARK
Cetorhinus maximus

Go to a Basking Shark Printout

The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is a huge filter feeding shark which grows to be up to about 33 feet (10 m) long. It is the second-largest shark (after the whale shark). The basking shark is also called the sunfish, the bone shark, the elephant shark, the sailfish shark, and the big mouth shark.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION
This huge, bulky, filter-feeder is grayish brown to black to bluish on the upper surface and off-white or darker on its belly. It has a huge mouth which it uses to collect tiny food that floats in the water. A sluggish swimmer with huge gills and dark, bristle-like gill rakers, it filters its food from the water. The snout is short and conical.

SIZE
Female basking sharks are up to 33 feet (10 m) long; males are up to 30 feet (9 m) long. This enormous shark weighs up to 4 tons. It is the second largest fish in the world; the whale shark is the largest.

TEETH
Basking sharks have hundreds of teeth (each having a single cusp, curving backwards) but they are tiny and are of little use.

DIET AND FEEDING HABITS
Basking sharks are filter feeders that sieve small animals from the water. As the basking shark swims with its mouth open, masses of water filled with prey flow through its mouth. The prey includes plankton, baby fish, and fish eggs. After closing its mouth, the shark uses gill rakers that filter the nourishment from the water. Gill rakers are bristly structures (the thousands of bristles are about 4 inches or 10 cm long) in the shark's mouth that trap the small organisms which the shark then swallows. The water is expelled through the shark's 5 pairs of gill slits. The shark can process over 1500 gallons (6000 liters) of water each hour.

SOCIAL GROUPS
Basking sharks travel alone, in pairs, or in schools (groups) of up to 100 members.

HABITAT
Basking sharks live in coastal temperate waters. They spend most of their time at the surface, hence their nickname the "sunfish."

DISTRIBUTION
Basking sharks are found off the coasts of western North America from Baja to southern Alaska, off the east coast of the US and southern Canada, along the Gulf Stream, to the entire coastline of Europe, off the southern coast of Australia, off South Africa, New Zealand, most of southern South America, the Red Sea, and the coastlines of China and Japan.



SWIMMING
Basking sharks are slow swimmers, going no more than 3 mph (5 kph). They swim by moving their entire bodies from side to side (not just their tails, like some other sharks do).

REPRODUCTION
Basking sharks reach sexual maturity at about 2-4 years old. They mate in the summer off the coasts of Iceland and northern Europe. The gestation period is about 3.5 years. They probably reproduce via aplacental viviparity. Females give birth to 1-2 live young. which are about 5.5 feet (1.7 m) long. These are the largest shark pups.

Like all sharks, fertilization of the eggs occurs within the female. The eggs hatch within the female and are nourished by eating unfertilized eggs in the womb. There is no placenta to nourish the babies - they must fend for themselves, even before birth. They swim away from the mother immediately after birth, there is no maternal care-giving.

SHARK ATTACKS
Basking sharks are not aggressive and are generally harmless to people.

MIGRATION
Basking sharks migrate seasonally, eating in cool northern waters, moving south during the winter.

POPULATION COUNT
The number of basking sharks is unknown, but it may be decreasing since the basking shark is hunted for its meat, fins and oil.

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


BASKING SHARK ACTIVITIES
A print-out with information on basking sharks.

A simple K-3 basking shark print-out to color.

A first grade addition activity. Solve the 1-digit addition problems, then do letter substitutions to answer a shark question.

BASKING SHARK LINKS
The Basking Shark Society.

The basking shark from the International Wildlife Coalition.

Basking shark protection extended: news article from the Shark Specialist Group.



Information Sheets About Sharks (and Rays)

Just click on an animal's name to go to that information sheet. If the shark (or ray) you're interested in isn't here, check the Shark Dictionary.

ANGELSHARK

BASKING SHARK

BLACKTIP REEF SHARK

BLUE SHARK

BLUNTNOSE SIXGILL SHARK

BONNETHEAD SHARK

BROADNOSE SEVENGILL SHARK

BULL SHARK

DOGFISH SHARK

GALAPAGOS SHARK

GOBLIN SHARK

GREAT WHITE SHARK

HAMMERHEAD SHARK

LEMON SHARK

MAKO SHARK

MANTA RAY

NURSE SHARK

PORBEAGLE SHARK

SPINED PYGMY SHARK

TIGER SHARK

THRESHER SHARK

WHALE SHARK



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