At first glance, the world’s second largest fish might seem menacing: Its gaping mouth has six rows of teeth in its upper jaw, and nine rows below, for a total of about 1,500 tiny, hooked teeth. The basking shark’s scientific name, Cetorhinus maximus, roughly translates to “great-nosed sea monster” in Greek.
In reality, these placid sharks, found the world over, are totally harmless. One of only three filter-feeding shark species, basking sharks eat tiny organisms called zooplankton. Swimming with their three-foot-wide mouths agape allows them to take in water and filter out plankton using gill rakers, special organs that prevent their food from escaping through the gills. Scientists believe their teeth—which are not used in