Head of a Basking Shark in the tank area
Head of a Basking Shark in the tank area. AMS I.31405-001 Image: Mark McGrouther
Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    maximus
    Genus
    Cetorhinus
    Family
    Cetorhinidae
    Order
    Lamniformes
    Class
    Chondrichthyes
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    The species grows to at least 10 m in length.

The Basking Shark is found worldwide in temperate and cool oceanic waters. They swim with their huge mouths open, straining and feeding almost entirely on zooplankton.



Identification

The Basking Shark is recognised by its large size, five long gill slits, two dissimilar sized dorsal fins, its lunate caudal fin and the single keel on each side of the caudal peduncle.

Distribution

The species is found worldwide in temperate and cool oceanic waters. In Australia it is most common off the southern coastline but is recorded from Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia, around the temperate south and north to Port Stephens, New South Wales.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information.



Feeding and diet

The Basking Shark feeds almost entirely on zooplankton. Basking Sharks swim with their huge mouths open and use the brush-like gill rakers to strain food from the water. The teeth are very small varying from triangular at the centre of the jaw to conical laterally.


Jaws and teeth of a Basking Shark in the tank area
Jaws and teeth of of a Basking Shark in the tank area. AMS I.31405-001. Image: Mark McGrouther
Australian Museum

References

  1. Glover, C.J.M.in Gomon, M.F, Glover, C.J.M. & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.
  2. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 1994 Sharks and Rays of Australia. CSIRO. Pp. 513.