The mouth of a basking shark is almost certainly its most recogizable feature. In fact, when they have their mouths closed, basking sharks are often mistake for great whites due to similarities in their body size and structure.
Just take a look at that mouth!
But just how big is the mouth of a basking shark, and why?
Before we get to the size of the mouth, we should talk about the overall size of the basking shark. This will give you some idea of not only the sheer size of the mouth, but also how big it is compared to the body of the shark.
Often reaching sizes of 20-26 feet in length and weighing over 5 tons, basking sharks are actually the second largest fish in the world, closely behind the whale shark.
With all that being said, let’s get to the mouth!
The mouth of an adult basking shark can get to approximately 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide.
That’s big enough to swallow most people whole! Fortunately, that will never be a concern because basking sharks are filter feeders which feed exclusively on small things floating in the water such as plankton, very small fish, and even fish eggs.
In fact, this is precisely the reason that the basking shark’s mouth is so large. It needs as much water as possible to be flowing through the gill rakers in its mouth, to collect enough food for the shark to survive. An adult basking shark can process over 1500 gallons on water per hour.