10 interesting facts about basking sharks

A basking shark trapped in Muckle Carr, at Craster. Picture by Dick Pearson
A basking shark trapped in Muckle Carr, at Craster. Picture by Dick Pearson

After a basking shark was spotted in a bay near Craster, Northumberland, on Wednesday, trapped by low tide, here is a selection of facts about this fascinating creature, rarely seen on the North East coastline.

Pictures of the trapped shark were taken by Dick Pearson.

A basking shark. Picture: JP Trenque

A basking shark. Picture: JP Trenque

1. The basking shark is the second largest living fish, after the whale shark, reaching lengths of 12metres.

2. It is one of three plankton-eating sharks, the others being the whale shark and megamouth shark.

3. It is a seasonal visitor to British waters, arriving in significant numbers between May and October each year but mainly on the west coast.

4. Basking shark hotspots are Hebrides (Skye and Mull), Isle of Man, Malin Head and south-west England (Devon, Cornwall, Scilly).

5. During the early spring and summer months, warmer water moves from the Atlantic into the coastal waters of the western UK and Ireland, encouraging greater marine productivity, particularly in the hotspots.

6. It is a slow-moving filter feeder and has anatomical adaptations for filter feeding, such as a greatly enlarged mouth and highly developed gill rakers.

7. The basking shark is usually greyish-brown, with mottled skin.

8. The teeth of the basking shark are curved backwards, very small and numerous, and often number one hundred per row.

9. The largest accurately measured specimen was trapped in a herring net in the Bay of Fundy, Canada, in 1851.Its total length was 12.27metres (40.3 ft) and it weighed an estimated 19 tons.

10. Though the basking shark is large and slow, it can breach, jumping entirely out of the water. Although, they are not aggressive and are harmless to humans.

Information from Wikipedia and the Shark Trust website