You know that fish (including sharks) breathe through their gills, but did you know that some sharks eat through their gills, too? Basking sharks have special parts of their gills called gill rakers that act as sieves to help them catch small fish and plankton. The sharks just swim slowly through the ocean with their giant mouths wide open, catching anything in their way.
If you spot a mysterious dorsal fin out in the ocean, don’t panic! First, see if it’s a basking shark. Unlike most dolphins and whales, basking sharks have large, triangular dorsal fins, and travel fairly steadily on the surface. If you’re close enough (or if you have binoculars), look behind the dorsal fin to see if there’s a smaller caudal fin present. If there is, you might just be looking at our friend the basking shark!
Even though basking sharks can reach lengths of up to 32 feet, you don’t need to be afraid of them. In their whole, big mouth they have zero teeth and they aren’t going to try to swallow you whole. The biggest danger from these gentle giants is them accidentally bumping you!