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Hibernator survives low food supply: basking shark


Basking shark / Chris Gotsch.. / LicensePD - Public Domain

The metabolism of basking sharks allows survival of winter food limitations via torpor, a hibernation-like state.

"Torpor or hibernation in fish is rare, but the most remarkable case features the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus). It swallows great quantities of plankton, straining it from the water via specialized filters called gill-rakers. A common sight drifting just beneath the sea surface during the plankton-rich summer months, these sharks are rarely seen during the winter, when plankton is scarce. This is because they descend to deeper waters where, scientists assumed, they spend the season in a torpid state. However, when scientists examined two basking sharks during winter they lacked gill-rakers and thus couldn't feed. This unexpected finding suggests that basking sharks hibernate, shedding their gill-rakers and regrowing them in spring." (Shuker 2001:108)
About the inspiring organism
Med_2006072106125521basking_shark Basking shark
Cetorhinus maximus (Gunnerus, 1765)
Common names: Basking tresher, Bone shark, Elephant shark, Hoe-mother, Shark, Sun-fish

Habitat(s): Marine Neritic
Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: FishBase
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_VU IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Determining energy use of fatty acid chains for efficient small voltage applications, understanding physiological changes that help systems survive prolonged inactivity.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Energy, medical

Shuker, KPN. 2001. The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London: Marshall Editions Ltd. 240 p.
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