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the web of life in southern Africa

Cetorhinus maximus (Basking shark)

(Gunnerus, 1765)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Chondrichthyes > Elasmobranchii > Galeomorphii > Lamniformes > Cetorhinidae

Cetorhinus maximus (Basking shark) [Illustration by Ann Hecht ]


A giant spindle-shaped blue-grey or brownish shark with a pointed snout, huge gill slits, and a tuna-like caudal fin with strong caudal keels. Underside with irregular white patches.


Attains 10 to 15 m TL, the 2nd largest fish.


West coast from Robbin Island to Cape Agulhas; most temperate seas.


Coastal and pelagic in cool-temperate waters, on shelf and sometimes close inshore, usually near the surface.


This shark feeds on tiny crustaceans, and filters tonnes of water through its mouth and gills to catch them on its mucous-covered gill-raker denticles.

Human Impact

None here.

Text by Leonard J.V. Compagno, David A. Ebert and Malcolm J. Smale