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Basking Shark

The summer sunshine is here and now Basking Sharks are starting to appear around the coast of Britain and Ireland.  In calm, sunny weather these giant fish like to feed in deep water close to the shore.

Of course to get a view like the one in the photo you need to be in the water with them, but you can sometimes see them from dry land too.  If you watch the surface of the water you'll often see two fins, one behind the other, just above the surface of the water.  This is the dorsal fin and the top of the tail fin.  The fins will also give you an idea of the age of the shark.  A young shark has a very upright, pointed dorsal fin, while an older shark has a more square fin and it tends to flop to one side.

Despite their huge size (up to 10m), basking sharks are harmless filter feeders.  They cruise through the sea with their giant mouths wide open.  As water goes in, food such as plankton is collected on filaments in the gills.  The gills also extract oxygen from the water.

Hot spots for basking sharks include the Isle of Man, Cornwall and the west coast of Scotland.

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