Cetorhinus maximus (Gunnerus, 1765)
Basking shark
Cetorhinus maximus
photo by Murch, A.

Family:  Cetorhinidae (Basking sharks)
Max. size:  1520 cm TL (male/unsexed); 980 cm TL (female); max.weight: 4,000 kg
Environment:  pelagic-oceanic; marine; depth range 0 - 2000 m, oceanodromous
Distribution:  Cosmopolitan, frequent in cold to warm temperate waters; rare in equatorial waters (Ref. 48844). Highly migratory species, Annex I of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (Ref. 26139). At risk of extinction by overfishing because of low to very low productivity (Ref. 36717). Appendix II (Mediterranean) of the Bern Convention (2002). Appendix I and II of the Bonn Convention (2009). International trade restricted (CITES Appendix II, since 28.5.2003).
Diagnosis:  Dorsal spines (total): 0-0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 0-0; Anal spines: 0-0; Anal soft rays: 0-0. Distinguished from all other sharks by the enormous gill slits practically encircling the head; dermal denticle gill rakers; pointed snout; huge, sub terminal mouth with minute hooked teeth; caudal peduncle with strong lateral keels, and lunate caudal fin. Body covered with placoid scales. Blackish to grey-brown, grey, or blue-grey, often with irregular white blotches under the head and abdomen (Ref. 43278). Also Ref. 309, 5983.
Biology:  The second largest shark, reportedly reaching 1,220-1,520 cm TL (Ref. 247). Thought to live up to 50 years (Ref. 9030, 89083). Semi-oceanic or oceanic species, highly migratory (Ref. 43278). Found on continental and insular shelves, offshore and often close to land, just off the surf zone; enters enclosed bays (Ref. 247). Coastal-pelagic at 1 meter to unknown depths, probably epipelagic (Ref. 58302). Occurs singly, in pairs or groups of 3 or more, or in huge schools (group of up to 100 individuals has been reported) (Ref. 6871, 43278). Prefers water temperature between 8-16 °C (Ref. 88171). Makes extensive horizontal and vertical movements along the continental shelf and shelf edge to utilize productive feeding areas (Ref. 50200). During the summer months, it is found near the surface of boreal to warm-temperate areas (Ref. 43278) feeding on zooplankton by filtering (Ref. 88781). Found in deeper waters during winter (Ref. 6871, 50200, 58302). Undertakes long transoceanic migrations (e.g. from the British Isles to Newfoundland, Canada (Ref. 88824)) and moves between the northern and southern hemisphere in tropical mesopelagic water (Ref. 88825). These migrations have been found to cover distances of over 9,000 km. May form segregations by size or sex (Ref. 88171). Ovoviviparous (Ref. 50449). Regarded as ordinarily harmless and inoffensive but potentially dangerous if attacked (particularly when harpooned) (Ref. 247). In Bay of Fundy, Canada parasitic lampreys have been found attached to the back of basking sharks and sucking their blood (Ref. 83375). Utilized fresh, frozen and dried, or salted (Ref. 9987). Also valued for its liver for oil, fins for soup, hide for leather and carcass for fishmeal (Ref. 247). May be a potential source of anti-carcinoma drugs (Ref. 6034, 6035). Used in Chinese medicine (Ref. 12166). Threatened due to bycatch fisheries (Ref. 83294).
IUCN Red List Status: Endangered (EN); Date assessed: 07 November 2018 (A2bd) Ref. (123251)
Threat to humans:  traumatogenic
Country info:   
 

Entered by: Carpenter, Kent E. - 15.06.92
Modified by: Luna, Susan M. - 22.06.16
Checked by: Garilao, Cristina V. - 06.06.95

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