Basking Sharks By The Numbers

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Where Do Basking Sharks Go During Winter?

Where do basking sharks go during winter? Do they hibernate? Scientists are using satellite tags to solve a riddle that’s been baffling them for centuries.

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How To Spot A Basking Shark

Often mistaken for great whites at a distance, the basking shark’s enormous size, filter-feeding lifestyle, and mega-sized mouth make them quite easy to distinguish at close range. Tap or click on hotspots for more information.

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Did You Know?

Basking Sharks And Great Whites Share A Common Ancestor

The only living member of the Cetorhinidae family, basking sharks fall within the same shark order as great whites. This ancient order is called mackerel sharks, or Lamniformes, and includes a wide range of species from megamouths to makos, and threshers to goblin sharks. These sharks are grouped together based on physical similarities and DNA evidence.

But basking sharks have several unique features that set them apart from most mackerel sharks, including tiny hooked teeth and gill rakers for filter feeding. Basking sharks spotted near the water’s surface are commonly reported as white sharks, but they tend to move slowly and aimlessly through the water in comparison to their more-aggressive cousins. And while most mackerel sharks tend to be large, basking sharks are truly massive in comparison.

We have fossil evidence of mackerel sharks going as far back as 100 million years, making them one of the oldest shark orders. But the fossil record for basking sharks can only be traced back about 30 million years – likely because they have small, brittle teeth that break easily and so aren’t easily found in the fossil record.

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