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Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus)

Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus)

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Order: Lamniformes
Family: Cetorhinidae
Genus: Cetorhinus
Species: maximus
Taxonomic name: Cetorhinus maximus

The world's second largest fish is the Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) growing to 10 metres. This harmless giant is greyish brown in colour with a long snout, tiny eyes and gill slits that almost surround the head. The tail has a large upper lobe which, along with the dorsal fin, is often seen protruding above the surface.

Basking Sharks are seen during summer across the southern coast of Australia but sightings are rare, being more common in the Northern Hemisphere. A huge oily liver — about 25 per cent of their body weight — helps them to maintain neutral buoyancy. Their most notable feature is an enormous mouth which is opened to allow plankton to be strained out through their huge arched gill slits. It is assumed that the gill rakers, frilled filters attached to the gill arches, are lost during the winter when they apparently hibernate in deep water. Despite being an important commercial species, we know virtually nothing about its life or breeding habits and this shark has been hunted close to extinction.

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