Jumping Basking Sharks
“And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
As a boy, I was always taught that it is rude to eat with your mouth open. It would be even ruder just to sit still with your mouth simply hanging open. But some sharks do precisely that.
Basking sharks, as their name suggests, spend a lot of time doing very little. They are very large – up to 20 feet in length, making them the second largest sharks, after the whale shark. They swim very slowly most of the time – about 2 miles per hour – with their mouths wide open. They do this in order to feed because they eat marine invertebrates and zooplanckton (little fish). These are filtered by their gill rakers.
One of their most unusual behaviors is that they will breach the surface. There are other fish that do this, such as salmon. There are also sharks that do this – the great white shark is known to breach the surface at great speed. If we do an internet search for breaching behavior, we find that fish do this in order to feed. For example, a white shark would breach in order to catch a seal.
In order to breach, basking sharks reach a speed of 11 mph, expending 45 kilocalories of energy. There has been speculation that they might be jumping out of the water to dislodge parasites, but it is interesting that the reason for this behavior is not yet known. There are still mysteries to solve regarding so many parts of God’s creation.
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