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Incredible Basking Shark Facts

The basking shark is the second largest fish in the world after whale sharks, reaching lengths of 40 feet. Basking sharks are filter feeders that eat tiny, planktonic prey. The basking shark can give an intimidating impression, but they are quite harmless. They spend most of their time near the surface, swimming with their extraordinarily large mouths open, filtering out their preferred prey, but they may also make deeper, feeding dives.

They have very large individual home ranges and do not stay in any one place for longer than a couple of months. Pairs of basking sharks mate via internal fertilization, and females give birth to live young. As opposed to whale sharks, which give live birth to hundreds of small babies, basking sharks give birth to only a few ( causing low population ), quite large babies. Based on the minimum size of individuals observed in the wild (6 feet/2 m) and a single pregnant individual caught by a fisher, shark biologists believe that basking sharks give birth to the largest babies of all fishes, just beating out the great white shark. Scientists believe that male and female basking sharks live at different places and likely only come together to mate and that pregnant females (never encountered by fishers or other people) separate from other females during gestation.

The basking shark may be huge but we still know very little about this giant. Satellite tracking has shown that they can migrate long distances in the winter, with some showing up off the Azores and even Newfoundland. However, some fishermen have reported seeing them in midwinter in the UK and they sometimes wash up dead in the winter after storms.

Basking Shark Facts

1. Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the ocean, growing to a maximum length of 45 feet (15.2 m) and weight of 10,000 pounds (4.5 metric tons).

2. They have been observed leaping out of the water, which may be a way of getting rid of parasites.

3. They have massive livers that make up 25 percent of their body weight.

4. Basking sharks filter up to 4,000,000 pounds (1814 metric tons) of water every hour while filter feeding.

5. Basking sharks often swim in pairs or large groups of up to 100 other individuals.

6. Female basking sharks have a gestation period of at least 3 years.

7. It is estimated that basking sharks live for about 50 years.

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