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Specialized gills filter plankton: basking shark


Model of a Basking Shark in the Houston Museum of Natural Science / Ed T / LicenseCC-by-sa - Attribution Share Alike

The gills of basking sharks filter plankton from seawater for nutrition via specialized filters called gill-rakers.

"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
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 EOL.org
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: Large-volume filtration devices, ballast water management products.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Water supply, marine transport

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