Animal Wildlife | Basking Shark | The basking shark is the second largest species of shark (and fish) in the world behind the enormous whale shark. Basking sharks are also commonly known as the sunfish, the elephant shark and the big mouth shark. The basking shark is found inhabiting temperate coastal waters around the world, with the exception of the Indian Ocean. The basking shark is one of only three plankton-feeding shark species and is the largest fish in British waters.
Basking sharks are most well known for their enormous mouths which balloon out in order to take in as much water into it as possible, and are able to process over 1,500 gallons at a time. As filter-feeders, the basking shark's mouth contains hundreds of tiny teeth which are used to filter food particles out of the water. Basking sharks are generally solitary animals found hunting alone, although basking sharks are also commonly seen in schools of up to 100 basking shark individuals usually during seasonal migrations. Basking sharks are also known to spend most of their time closer to the surface of the water where they can be easily spotted as they munch their way through the ocean.
As with other large fish and shark species, the basking shark is a carnivorous animal meaning that it only gets it's nutrients by eating other animals. Plankton is the primary source of food for the basking shark along with other small organisms such as fish, squid and crustaceans. As the second largest shark species in the world, the basking shark has few natural predators. Apart from hunting by humans, the great white shark and the killer whale are the only real threat to the basking shark, mainly due to the fact that basking sharks are slow and generally sluggish swimmers.
Basking sharks reach sexual maturity (can begin breeding) when they are about three years old. Basking sharks are known to mate during the warmer summer months, and their pups (the largest of all shark pups) are born live after up to 3 years of development. Basking shark pups are known to become independent immediately, swimming away from their mother just after birth. Due to over hunting and rising levels of pollution, the world's basking shark populations have severely declined meaning that today, the basking shark is considered to be an animal that is under threat from extinction.
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