This month our Creature Feature is from guest writer - Yolanda Evans. 17-year old Yolanda has been passionate about sharks all her life. And this month she explores the world of the Basking Shark.

Slowly gliding through the water is the 12 metre Basking Shark. The second largest shark in the world, but also the biggest in British waters, these sharks are immediately identifiable from their large agape mouths and their brown-grey colouration. In fact, they are so big that their species name ‘maximus’ means great, for their great size.

Basking Sharks' capacious mouths can be up to 90cm wide but despite their size, they eat some of the smallest creatures, zooplankton. Their food is separated from the water by their gill rakers, these are long keratinous bristle structures that are in each gill. Even though they eat zooplankton, Basking Sharks still have teeth. There can be up to 200 in both their upper and lower jaws. However, unlike their cousins the infamous White shark, their teeth are only 5mm long!

Very little is known about Basking Shark pups. In fact, only one female has ever been recorded carrying an embryo! It is widely believed that Basking Sharks are ovoviviparous, meaning that eggs inside the female hatch before she gives birth. Basking Shark pups are born with almost a hooked snout. This hooked snout is thought to help the pup to feed while still in the mother; the pup will rapidly outgrow this hooked snout after about a year. 

They swim close to the surface of the water causing their dorsal fin to break the top. Basking Sharks can often congregate in shivers (a group of sharks) of over 100 sharks. They display a number of courtship behaviours including snout-to-tail lines, parallel swimming, and even breaching, this is when the shark jumps out of the water! 

Their common name also comes from where they swim, as it is thought these mighty sharks like to bask in the warmth of the sun. In fact, like many sharks and ourselves, Basking Sharks can actually get a tan from the sun! Their tan makes them go a darker brown.

They have a global distribution and are a common visitor to British waters! Basking Sharks are a migratory species. They can be found in the UK from May to October on the west coast of the UK and then undergo trans-Atlantic migrations along the continental shelf following the zooplankton. If you do see a Basking Shark in the wild always remember the Basking shark code of conduct

The Basking shark is currently recognised as endangered and is on the IUCN red list. It was until 1994 that Basking sharks were hunted for their liver oil in the UK. The oil was used for streetlamps and cosmetics. Shark liver oil is made of a substance called squalene which is still used today in many products like sun creams and makeup. 

REPORTING YOUR SIGHTINGS - You can report your sightings of Basking Shark wherever you are in the world, to our Basking Shark Project!

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cetorhinus maximus

FAMILY:  Cetorhinidae


DIET: Zooplankton


HABITAT: Coastal and Pelagic waters


Banner Image - © Martin Prochazkacz via Shutterstock

In-Text Images -© Frogfish Photography