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Basking Shark
Basking shark AJ.jpg
Scientific Name Cetorhinus maximus
Conservation Status vulnerable
Family Chordata
Habitat Temperate oceans
Food plankton and small fish

The Basking Shark, Cetorhinus maximus, is the second largest living shark, after the whale shark. It is a cosmopolitan species, found in all the world's temperate oceans. It is a slow moving and generally harmless filter feeder.

The basking shark is a coastal-pelagic shark found worldwide in boreal to warm-temperate waters around the continental shelves. It prefers 8 to 14 °C (46 to 57 °F) temperatures, but recently has been confirmed to cross the much-warmer waters at the equator. It is often seen close to land, including bays with narrow openings. The shark follows plankton concentrations in the water column and is therefore often visible at the surface. They characteristically migrate with the seasons. The basking shark is found from the surface down to at least 910 metres (3,000 ft).

The basking shark is a passive filter feeder, filtering zooplankton, small fish and invertebrates from up to 2,000 short tons (1,800 t) of water per hour. They feed at or close to the surface with their mouths wide open and gill rakers erect. Unlike the megamouth shark and whale shark, the basking shark does not appear to actively seek quarry, but it does possess large olfactory bulbs that may guide it. It relies only on the water that it pushes through its gills by swimming; the megamouth shark and whale shark can suck or pump water through their gills.

Historically, the basking shark has been a staple of fisheries because of its slow swimming speed, unaggressive nature and previously abundant numbers. Commercially it was put to many uses: the flesh for food and fishmeal, the hide for leather, and its large liver (which has a high squalene content) for oil. It is currently fished mainly for its fins (for shark fin soup). Parts (such as cartilage) are also used in traditional Chinese medicine and as an aphrodisiac in Japan, further adding to demand.