This month we're showcasing the magnificent Basking Shark - the 2nd biggest fish in the ocean.

Basking Sharks are so named because they’re often seen feeding at the surface of the water, where they look like they’re basking in the sun!

These ocean giants are one of 3 filter-feeding sharks. But they're the only shark that feeds entirely passively. They swim through the water with their mouth wide open rather than actively sucking water in. Only closing their mouths to swallow their food. Long comb-like structures on their gills (known as gill-rakers) trap and filter zooplankton. These can strain up to 2000 tonnes of water per hour!

Basking Sharks can be seen on their own, in small groups, or in schools of hundreds. There are many reports of groups made up of the same size and sex, suggesting a strong sexual and age segregation within the species.

Despite their size, they’re capable of leaping clear out of the water. A behaviour known as breaching. They breach often when in large groups and during courtship, so this may act as a social or sexual function. It could also help to dislodge external parasites.

It’s thought that Basking Sharks live for at least 50 years. Males reach maturity at 12–16 years. Females at 20 years.

Basking Sharks rarely evade approaching boats. So, it’s common for them to have scarring and sometimes horrific injuries from collisions. This is one reason why it’s so important that water users follow our Basking Shark Code of Conduct (pdf).

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cetorhinus maximus

  • FAMILY: Cetorhinidae


  • DIET: Zooplankton. Tiny microscopic plants and animals that get carried on the ocean currents. These include small copepods, barnacles, decapod larvae, fish eggs and shrimp.

  • DISTRIBUTION: Worldwide. Near the surface in cold to temperate waters. In tropical waters they’re found much deeper, where it’s cooler.

  • HABITAT: Often seen in coastal waters during summer and autumn months. They migrate across oceans at depths of 200-1000m, and can dive to depths over 1200m.


Love Basking Sharks?

So do we. And we're super excited because Basking Shark season (typically May-October) has officially begun here in the UK. So if you're visiting the coast keep your eyes peeled because you never know, you may just be lucky enough to spot one. 

Click here to find out more about the best places to see Basking Sharks in the UK, and how you can get involved with our Basking Shark Project

Fancy adopting a Basking Shark?

Click below to find out more about our jawsome adoption packs - full of Basking Shark goodies and many more fun facts to impress your friends.

Adopt a Basking Shark

Related Links:

► Check out more incredible sharks and rays covered in our Creature Features

► Discover more fin-tastic facts by visiting our Discover Sharks section

Banner image © Nick Robertson-Brown