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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Creature Feature: Basking Shark

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In this new series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.

In this episode they are showcasing the magnificent Basking Shark – the 2nd biggest fish in the ocean.

Basking Sharks are so named because they’re often seen feeding at the surface of the water, where they look like they’re basking in the sun!

These ocean giants are one of three filter-feeding sharks. But they’re the only shark that feeds entirely passively. They swim through the water with their mouth wide open rather than actively sucking water in. Only closing their mouths to swallow their food. Long comb-like structures on their gills (known as gill-rakers) trap and filter zooplankton. These can strain up to 2000 tonnes of water per hour!

Basking Sharks can be seen on their own, in small groups, or in schools of hundreds. There are many reports of groups made up of the same size and sex, suggesting a strong sexual and age segregation within the species.

Despite their size, they’re capable of leaping clear out of the water. A behaviour known as breaching. They breach often when in large groups and during courtship, so this may act as a social or sexual function. It could also help to dislodge external parasites.

It’s thought that Basking Sharks live for at least 50 years. Males reach maturity at 12–16 years. Females at 20 years.

Basking Sharks rarely evade approaching boats. So, it’s common for them to have scarring and sometimes horrific injuries from collisions. This is one reason why it’s so important that water users follow our Basking Shark Code of Conduct (pdf).

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cetorhinus maximus
  • FAMILY: Cetorhinidae
  • MAXIMUM SIZE: 12m
  • DIET: Zooplankton. Tiny microscopic plants and animals that get carried on the ocean currents. These include small copepods, barnacles, decapod larvae, fish eggs and shrimp.
  • DISTRIBUTION: Worldwide. Near the surface in cold to temperate waters. In tropical waters they’re found much deeper, where it’s cooler.
  • HABITAT: Often seen in coastal waters during summer and autumn months. They migrate across oceans at depths of 200-1000m, and can dive to depths over 1200m.
  • CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered

Love Basking Sharks?

So do we. And we’re super excited because Basking Shark season (typically May-October) is in full swing here in the UK. So if you’re visiting the coast keep your eyes peeled because you never know, you may just be lucky enough to spot one.

► Click here to find out more about the best places to see Basking Sharks in the UK, and how you can get involved with our Basking Shark Project


Fancy adopting a Basking Shark?

Click here to find out more about our jawsome adoption packs – full of Basking Shark goodies and many more fun facts to impress your friends.


Header Image: Nick Robertson-Brown

The Shark Trust is the leading UK-based shark conservation charity. The team works globally to safeguard the future of sharks, and their close cousins, the skates and rays. Engaging with a global network of scientists, policymakers, conservation professionals, businesses and supporters, to further shark conservation. Established in 1997 to provide a voice for UK sharks, the Shark Trust has an ever-growing number of passionate supporters. And together we're creating positive change for sharks around the world. Want to join us and help protect sharks around the world? Click here! www.sharktrust.org

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The Ocean Cleanup to Complete 100th Extraction Live from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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the ocean cleanup
  • The Ocean Cleanup marks 100th extraction of plastic pollution from the Pacific Ocean by livestreaming entire cleaning operation from start to finish.
  • Occasion brings together supporters, partners, donors and followers as the project readies its cleanup technology for scale-up.
  • Founder and CEO Boyan Slat to provide insight on the plans ahead.

The Ocean Cleanup is set to reach a milestone of 100 plastic extractions from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Extraction #100, scheduled for 28 or 29 May 2024, will be the first ever to be livestreamed direct from the Pacific Ocean, allowing supporters and partners around the world to see up close how the organization has removed over 385,000 kilograms (nearly 850,000 lbs) of plastic from the GPGP so far – more than double the bare weight of the Statue of Liberty.

the ocean cleanup

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To do this, the non-profit project employs a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the world’s largest accumulation of floating plastic), while stopping the flow of plastic from the world’s most polluting rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup captured its first plastic (the first ‘extraction’) in the GPGP in 2019 with System 001, following years of trials and testing with a variety of concepts. Through System 002 and now the larger and more efficient System 03, the organization has consistently improved and optimized operations, and is now preparing to extract plastic trash from the GPGP for the 100th time.

the ocean cleanup

Extraction #100 will be an interactive broadcast showing the entire extraction procedure live and in detail, with insight provided by representatives from across The Ocean Cleanup and partners contributing to the operations.

This is an important milestone in a key year for The Ocean Cleanup.’ said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. ‘We’ve come a long way since our first extraction in 2019. During the 2024 season, with System 03, we aim to demonstrate that we are ready to scale up, and with it, confine the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the history books.

the ocean cleanup

The livestream will be hosted on The Ocean Cleanup’s YouTube channel and via X. Monitor @theoceancleanup for confirmed timings.

www.theoceancleanup.com

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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Book Review: Plankton

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Plankton: A Worldwide Guide by Tom Jackson and Jennifer Parker

This is a book that jumps off the shelf at you. The striking front cover demands that you pick it up and delve further, even if you may not have known you wanted to learn more about the most diminutive life in our ocean, plankton!

Small it might be. Much of the imagery in the book has been taken under huge magnification. Revealing stunning beauty and diversity in each scoop of “soup”. There is lots to learn. Initial chapters include interesting facts about the different vertical zones they inhabit, from sunlight to midnight (the darkest and deepest areas). I loved finding out more about the stunning show that divers oft encounter on night dives – bioluminescence.

The black water images are wonderful. So this is a book you can have as a coffee table book to dip in and our of. But, these tiny organisms are also vital to our very survival and that of all the marine life we love. They provide half the oxygen produced on our planet. They are also responsible for regulating the planets climate. And for a shark lover like me – they are food for charismatic sharks and rays like the Basking Shark and Manta Ray, along with a huge number of other species. This book contains great insight into their biology, life cycles, migration, and how the changes in currents and sea temperatures affects them.

This is a book that is both beautiful and packed with information about possibly the most important group of organisms on our planet. Anyone interested in the ocean should have it one their shelves.

What the publisher says:

Plankton are the unsung heroes of planet Earth. Passive drifters through the world’s seas, oceans, and freshwater environments, most are invisible or very small, but some are longer than a whale. They are the global ocean’s foundation food, supporting almost all oceanic life, and they are also vitally important for land-based plants, animals, and other organisms. Plankton provides an incomparable look at these remarkable creatures, opening a window on the elegance and grace of microscopic marine life.

This engaging book reveals the amazing diversity of plankton, how they belong to a wide range of living groups, and how their ecology, lifestyles, and adaptations have evolved to suit an enormous range of conditions. It looks at plankton life cycles, the different ways plankton feed and grow, and the vast range of strategies they use for reproduction. It tracks where, how, and why plankton drift through the water; shares perspectives on migrations and population explosions or “blooms” and why they happen; and discusses the life-sustaining role of plankton in numerous intertwined food webs throughout the world.

Beautifully illustrated, Plankton sheds critical light on how global warming, pollution, diminishing resources, and overexploitation will adversely impact planktonic life, and how these effects will reverberate to every corner of our planet.

About the Authors:

Tom Jackson is a science writer whose many popular books include Strange Animals and Genetics in MinutesJennifer Parker is a zoology and conservation writer and the author of several books. Andrew Hirst is a leading expert on plankton whose research has taken him around the world, from the Antarctic to Greenland and the Great Barrier Reef.

Book Details

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Hardcover

Price: £25

ISBN: 9780691255996

Published: 9th April, 2024

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