The world’s second largest shark can jump just as high and as fast as great whites

Violation of basking sharks. (Credit: Youen Jacob)

Talk about hangtime.

The basking shark, the second largest in the world only to whale sharks, can keep up with great white sharks when it comes to jumping out of the water.

According to a study published in the scientific journal Biology Letters, basking sharks are capable of a top speed of 11 km / h and can be as high as 4 feet above the water, similar to the great white sharks.


“This finding does not mean that basking sharks are secretly fierce predators tearing around at high speed; they are still gentle giants munching away happily on zooplankton,” Dr. Jonathan Houghton, Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology at Queen’s University Belfast, said in a statement.

Dr. Nick Payne, assistant professor in Zoology at Trinity College in Dublin, and the study co-author, said: “The impressive turn of speed which we found basking sharks exhibition shows how little we know about marine animals – even the largest, most conspicuous species are surprises in store, if we are willing to look.”

By contrast, the great white sharks are capable of up to 10.7 km / h. Some researchers have witnessed great white sharks get as high as 8 to 10 feet out of the water to catch their prey, according to Sharks World.

In contrast to the larger great whites, who are perhaps the most well known predator in the world, and they have no known natural predators (killer whales sometimes feed), basking sharks are docile, even described as “slow and dozy,” as they look to feed on plankton.

Basking sharks can grow up to 26 metres in length, while the great whites can reach up to 21 metres. Whale sharks, the largest of the genus, can reach up to 33 metres.

The great white shark is known as “Deep Blue” is a nearly 20 meters long and is considered to be the largest great white ever caught on film.


The data are from a 26-meter-long basking shark spotted in 2015 in Malin Head, Ireland. The videos of the great whites “were recorded in 2009 at two locations in South Africa, where seal-shaped decoys-induced feeding attempts,” the statement added.

At one point, the basking shark is increased from a depth of 92 feet in just over 9 seconds, and lept out of the water “for a second, and leap peak at a height of 1.2 metres above the surface of the water.”

To do this, the shark reaches a top speed of around 11 km / h. “To put this in perspective, this is more than twice as fast as the average competitor in the Olympic men’s 50m freestyle swim,” the researchers said.

It is currently unclear why basking sharks leap out of the water, but it does highlight genetic similarities between the species.

“It shows that there is much more to this shark than the huge swimming seven, we are so familiar with,” Dr. Houghton continued in the release. “It’s a bit like discovering the cows are as fast as wolves (if you’re not looking).”

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

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