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).
- Compagno, L.J.V. 1984 FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/1):1-249. Rome: FAO. (Ref. 247)
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