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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. It spends most of its time at the surface, hence its nickname the "sunfish."

Basking sharks are not aggressive and are generally harmless to people. Basking sharks live in coastal temperate waters. 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).

Anatomy: This huge, bulky, filter-feeder has a huge mouth which it uses to collect tiny food that floats in the water. It is a sluggish swimmer with huge gills and dark, bristle-like gill rakers that filter its food from the water. The snout is short and conical. Female basking sharks are up to 33 feet (10 m) long; males are up to 30 feet (9 m) long.

Diet and Teeth: Basking sharks are filter feeders that sieve small animals from the water. As a 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. Basking sharks have hundreds of teeth (each having a single cusp, curving backwards) but they are tiny and are of little use.

Classification: Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Chondrichthyes, Order Lamniformes, Family Cetorhinidae, Genus Cetorhinus, Species maximus.

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