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Friday, July 22, 2011

Basking Shark

Beauty Of Animal | Basking Shark | The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is a huge filter feeding shark which grows to be up to about 33 feet (10 m) long. It is the second-largest shark (after the whale shark). The basking shark is also called the sunfish, the bone shark, the elephant shark, the sailfish shark, and the big mouth shark. This huge, bulky, filter-feeder is grayish brown to black to bluish on the upper surface and off-white or darker on its belly. It has a huge mouth which it uses to collect tiny food that floats in the water. A sluggish swimmer with huge gills and dark, bristle-like gill rakers, it filters its food from the water. The snout is short and conical.
Female basking sharks are up to 33 feet (10 m) long; males are up to 30 feet (9 m) long. This enormous shark weighs up to 4 tons. It is the second largest fish in the world; the whale shark is the largest. Basking sharks have hundreds of teeth (each having a single cusp, curving backwards) but they are tiny and are of little use.

Basking sharks are filter feeders that sieve small animals from the water. As the basking shark swims with its mouth open, masses of water filled with prey flow through its mouth. The prey includes plankton, baby fish, and fish eggs. After closing its mouth, the shark uses gill rakers that filter the nourishment from the water. Gill rakers are bristly structures (the thousands of bristles are about 4 inches or 10 cm long) in the shark's mouth that trap the small organisms which the shark then swallows. The water is expelled through the shark's 5 pairs of gill slits. The shark can process over 1500 gallons (6000 liters) of water each hour.
Basking sharks are found off the coasts of western North America from Baja to southern Alaska, off the east coast of the US and southern Canada, along the Gulf Stream, to the entire coastline of Europe, off the southern coast of Australia, off South Africa, New Zealand, most of southern South America, the Red Sea, and the coastlines of China and Japan. Basking sharks reach sexual maturity at about 2-4 years old. They mate in the summer off the coasts of Iceland and northern Europe. The gestation period is about 3.5 years. They probably reproduce via aplacental viviparity. Females give birth to 1-2 live young. which are about 5.5 feet (1.7 m) long. These are the largest shark pups.

Like all sharks, fertilization of the eggs occurs within the female. The eggs hatch within the female and are nourished by eating unfertilized eggs in the womb. There is no placenta to nourish the babies - they must fend for themselves, even before birth. They swim away from the mother immediately after birth, there is no maternal care-giving.Basking sharks are not aggressive and are generally harmless to people.

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