Home » All Great Easy Ways To Save Tax And Good Deductions » Basking Sharks Look Ferocious, But Prefer Plankton to People

COVID-19 Solutions & Effective Tips


The Greatest Emergency Virus Surviving 10 Steps Guide

Risk Responses COVID-19 Solutions


For Use When Travel FIRST AID KIT


Arts & Entertainment

 Body Art
 Film & Television
 Magic Tricks

Health & Fitness

 Spiritual Health
 Strength Training
 Women's Health
 Dietary Supplements
 Dental Health
 Diets & Weight Loss
 Exercise & Fitness
 Men's Health
 Mental Health
 Sleep and Dreams


 Educational Materials
 Higher Education
 Student Loans
 Test Prep & Study Guides

Home & Garden

 Animal Care & Pets
 Crafts & Hobbies
 Gardening & Horticulture
 How-to & Home Improvements
 Interior Design


 Sign Language


 Developer Tools

Parenting & Families

 Pregnancy & Childbirth
 Special Needs

Politics / Current Events



 Catalogs & Directories
 Consumer Guides
 Gay / Lesbian
 Law & Legal Issues
 The Sciences


 Dating Guides
 Eating Disorders
 Male Dating Guides
 Marriage & Relationships
 Motivational / Transformational
 Personal Finance
 Public Speaking
 Self Defense
 Stress Management
 Time Management

Software & Services

 Anti Adware / Spyware
 Background Investigations
 Developer Tools
 Digital Photos
 Foreign Exchange Investing
 Graphic Design
 Internet Tools
 MP3 & Audio
 Operating Systems
 Other Investment Software
 Personal Finance
 Registry Cleaners
 Reverse Phone Lookup
 Screensavers & Wallpaper
 System Optimization
 Web Design
 3D Printing

Business / Investing

 Careers, Industries & Professions
 Equities & Stocks
 Foreign Exchange
 International Business
 Management & Leadership
 Marketing & Sales
 Personal Finance
 Real Estate
 Small Biz / Entrepreneurship

Spirituality, New Age & Alternative Beliefs



 Extreme Sports
 Individual Sports
 Martial Arts
 Other Team Sports
 Outdoors & Nature
 Racket Sports
 Water Sports
 Winter Sports


 Latin America
 Middle East
 Specialty Travel
 United States

Betting Systems

 Casino Table Games
 Horse Racing

As Seen On TV

 Backyard Living
 Health and Beauty
 Kitchen Tools and Gadgets

Computers / Internet

 Email Services
 Operating Systems
 System Administration
 System Analysis & Design
 Web Hosting
 Web Site Design

Cooking, Food & Wine

 Drinks & Beverages
 Regional & Intl.
 Special Diet
 Special Occasions
 Vegetables / Vegetarian
 Wine Making

E-business & E-marketing

 Affiliate Marketing
 Article Marketing
 Blog Marketing
 Classified Advertising
 E-commerce Operations
 E-zine Strategies
 Email Marketing
 Market Research
 Niche Marketing
 Paid Surveys
 Pay Per Click Advertising
 Social Media Marketing
 Video Marketing

Employment & Jobs

 Cover Letter & Resume Guides
 Job Listings
 Job Search Guides
 Job Skills / Training




 Console Guides & Repairs
 Strategy Guides

Green Products

 Alternative Energy
 Conservation & Efficiency

Basking Sharks Look Ferocious, But Prefer Plankton to People

Basking Sharks Look Ferocious, But Prefer Plankton to People



The original “Jaws” hit theaters on June 20, 1975. During that blockbuster’s 40th anniversary weekend in 2015, something fishy happened. A lone diver and two separate groups of fishermen all reported seeing a great white shark off the coast of Maine. But when a photograph was produced, experts realized the creature had been misidentified. This wasn’t some seal-stalking great white. Instead, it was a basking shark — an even larger species with habits far removed from its better-known cousin’s.

Capable of growing 40 feet (12 meters) long, the basking shark can weigh up to 5 tons (4.5 metric tons). Of all the fish alive today, it’s the second biggest — outsized only by the mighty whale shark. It gets its name from its tendency to “bask” in the sun near the surface of the water.

Colossal animals have colossal appetites, but they don’t always go after big game. Basking sharks are filter-feeders, gathering zooplankton and other tiny animals (like shrimp) in bulk as they roam the seas with mouths wide open.

Sharks, rays, skates and their relatives make up the elasmobranchs, a subclass of fish that’s over 1,000 species strong. Filter-feeding is a rare strategy within their ranks; only 13 elasmobranch species are known to consume prey in this manner.

Do Fish Get Thirsty?

How Great White Sharks Work

Can I Survive a Shark Attack by Gouging Out Its Eyes?

How Shark Attacks Work

Whale sharks and basking sharks both crack the list, but they use different techniques. The former actively sucks water — and swimming prey — into its maw. Basking sharks don’t bother.

At its widest point, a full-grown basking shark’s mouth is about 3 feet (1 meter) across. When hunger strikes, the boat-sized fish open their jaws and push themselves forward. During this process, seawater passes through the gills at a rate of 1,500 tons (1,360 metric tons) per hour. Thousands of bristles on the gill slits, each measuring about 3.9 to 4.7 inches (10 to 12 centimeters) long, sift the waters and capture hapless victims.

Every 60 minutes, a 22-foot (7-meter) basking shark burns up an estimated 663 calories. Getting that kind of nutrition out of itty-bitty zooplankton may seem like a fool’s errand. Yet huge sea creatures do it every day.

“Many of the largest animals on Earth filter feed like this — whale sharks and basking sharks, manta rays and the baleen whales,” says David Shiffman, a marine conservation biologist who studies sharks, in an email.

“If plankton is abundant, which it often is when humans aren’t messing things up, just swimming around with your mouth open in any random direction is a lot more energy efficient than having to chase and subdue prey — and there’s a lot less risk of your prey escaping and you starving to death.”

The Industrial Revolution was hard on these sharks. Fishermen in the North Atlantic (and other places) harvested the fish en masse for their sizable livers, the oils from which fueled lanterns, lubricated machines and lent themselves to cosmetics.

Today, the basking shark is considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Actions have been taken to keep this species afloat, including a 2007 measure which barred commercial fishing vessels from hunting or trans-shipping the peaceful sharks in European Union waters.

Your odds of seeing one may vary by the season. Interested parties in Scotland and New England can observe the fish from springtime to autumn. Experts once thought basking sharks overwintered at the bottom of the sea, hibernating in underwater canyons and whatnot.

Tagged specimens have proven otherwise. At least some of the fish are migratory, following the zooplankton to lower latitudes or deeper waters far offshore when Old Man Winter comes a-knocking.

Lilian Lieber is well-acquainted with their habits. A post-doctoral fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, she’s led multiple studies on the species. “Basking sharks are highly mobile,” Lieber tells us in an email. Other scientists have observed tagged fish descending more than 3,281 feet (1000 meters) below the waves — and they’re fully capable of crossing the Atlantic.

“However, unlike some baleen whales, basking sharks don’t seem to have strict migration routes,” adds Lieber. “Their movements are highly driven by zooplankton dynamics … and their seasonal migrations are more variable.”

New research indicates basking sharks prefer the company of kin. Lieber was the lead author of a genetic tagging report published February 3, 2020, in the journal Nature. She and her colleagues gathered DNA samples from hundreds of individuals in the North Atlantic.

Specifically, they took mucus swabs. “Basking sharks have a relatively thick layer of dark mucus covering their skin and a sample of this mucus (‘slime’) contains their genetic signature,” Lieber says. “We used relatively cheap tools (mostly DIY) to sample basking sharks. For instance, we attached some sterile cotton clothes at the end of an extendable pole.”

Aboard small boats, the researchers would drift beside each fish and carefully “[swab] the pole in the region of their large dorsal fin.” The data paints an interesting picture: Apparently, sharks who forage together tend to have more genetic similarities than we might expect. Future conservation efforts may benefit from this discovery.

Since we’re talking about genetics, let’s put the big fish in its taxonomic place. Basking sharks are part of the order lamniformes, a subgroup of sharks characterized by their spine-free dorsal fins and the lack of protective membranes over their eyeballs. Also, every known lamniform has five pairs of gill slits.

“This order contains some of the most famous species like the great white, and some of my favorite weird and wonderful species like the basking shark, the goblin shark, the megamouth shark (which has the coolest scientific name in the ocean, Megachasma pelagios, or ‘giant mouth of the deep’) and threshers,” Shiffman tells us. “The world’s fastest shark, the shortfin mako, is also in this order.”

Still, none of those other fish have the great white’s marquee value. The aforementioned Maine story wasn’t an anomaly: Experts say boaters and beachgoers are constantly mistaking basking sharks for their smaller cousins. And that can provoke unrest.

“People should perhaps ask a scientist to confirm that something is a great white before posting breathless fearmongering headlines about scary sharks right off the beach, because a lot of times the photo is obviously of a basking shark,” cautions Shiffman.

Basking sharks might not want to take a bite out of you, but — for reasons scientists don’t yet understand — they sometimes breach out of the water. Three people were actually killed near Scotland in 1937 when their boat came too close to a leaping basker.

So remember, whether they eat plankton, seals or seaweed, all sharks deserve respect.

Print |
Citation & Date |

Culture · Previous Story

Next Story · Culture






Will a Shark Drown if It Stops Moving?

How Diving with Sharks Works

15 Tips for Surviving a Shark Attack


5 Things to Know Before You Record a Possible Crime

May 22, 2020

What’s the Difference Between Butter and Shortening?

May 22, 2020

Must-have Bar Essentials to Make Killer Cocktails at Home

May 21, 2020




Get the best of HowStuffWorks by email!

Keep up to date on: Latest Buzz · Stuff Shows & Podcasts · Tours · Weird & Wacky

Copyright © 2020 HowStuffWorks, a division of InfoSpace Holdings, LLC, a System1 Company

Basking Sharks Look Ferocious, But Prefer Plankton to People

Research & References of Basking Sharks Look Ferocious, But Prefer Plankton to People|A&C Accounting And Tax Services

Leave a comment