S. maximus, Linn. Syst. Nat. torn. i. p. 400.? Home in Phil. Trans. (1809). p. 206. pl. 6. f. 1. Flem. Brit. An. p. 164. Basking Shark, Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. iii. p. 101. pl. 13. Id. (Edit. 1812). vol. iii. p. 134. pl. 16. Low, Faun. Ore. p. 171.


Thirty feet and upwards.


(Form) Form rather slender: snout short, blunt, and pierced full of small holes: mouth large: teeth small and numerous; (according to Low, in five or six rows;) those before much bent, those more remote in the jaws conic and sharp-pointed: eyes small: branchial apertures five in number, large, reaching from the neck to the throat: first dorsal very large, not directly in the middle, but rather nearer the head: the second small, situate near the tail: pectorals (in a specimen twenty-three feet long) nearly four feet: ventrals smaller, placed just beneath the hind fin of the back: a small anal: tail very large; (according to Pennant,) the upper lobe remarkably longer than the lower; (according to Low,) the lobes equal in length, only the upper one somewhat broader and blunter than the lower: skin rough, like shagreen, but less so on the belly than the back. Penn. and Low. The following characters are added from Sir E. Home. " Nostrils opening on the edge of the upper lip: eyes very small; the pupils perfectly round: half-way between the eye and the gills, on each side, the orifice of a canal, leading into the mouth: pectorals situate a little behind the posterior gills: dorsal situate nearly opposite to the middle space between the pectoral and anal (ventral?) fins: posterior dorsal small, and situate half-way between the anal (ventral?) fins, and the setting on of the tail: the two anal (ventral?) fins attached on their upper edge for about half their extent each to the lower side of a long projecting body peculiar to the male: all the fins have a thick round edge anteriorly, and become gradually thinner towards the posterior part, which is partially serrated: a deep sulcus at the setting on of the tail, and, on each side of the fish, a scabrous ridge extending from this sulcus as far forwards as the posterior dorsal fin." {Colours). "Upper part of the body deep lead-colour: belly white." Penn.

A large species of Shark, referred by authors to the Squalus maximus of Linnseus, has been repeatedly noticed in the British seas. Pennant observes that such a fish has been long known to the inhabitants of the South and West of Ireland and Scotland, and those of Caernarvonshire and Anglesea; that they are seen in the Welsh seas in most summers, sometimes in vast shoals; that they also appear in the Frith of Clyde, and among the Hebrides, in the month of June, in small droves, but oftener in pairs. Mr. Neill states* that they are common in the Scottish seas, occasionally, though seldom, entering the Frith of Forth. Low speaks of their being also common in the Orkneys. Dr. Shaw notices one which was taken at Abbotsbury in Dorsetshire† . Sir E. Home has described another captured at Hastings. Mr. Couch mentions another taken on the coast of Cornwall ‡. Whether, however, in these and other instances the same species has been observed, from the want of more accurate descriptions, it is impossible to determine. Blainville is of opinion that no less than four distinct species have been confounded by naturalists under the name of Squalus maximus §. Cuvier, on the other hand, thinks that the differences observable in the figures and descriptions which authors have given of this fish, may have arisen from incorrect observation, and from the difficulty which attends a close examination of such large animals ||. These points can only be cleared up by further investigation into" the real characters of such individuals as may be hereafter met with. The Basking Shark of Pennant is represented as a tame and inoffensive species, deriving its English name from its habit of " lying as if to sun itself on the surface of the water." Its food is supposed to consist entirely of marine plants, no remains of fish having ever been discovered in the stomach. Pennant thinks that it is migratory.

* Wern. Mem. vol. i. p. 550. † Gen. Zool. vol. v. part ii. p. 330.

‡ Linn. Trans, vol. xiv. p. 91.

§ See two memoirs on this subject, one contained in the Journal de Physique for Sept. 1810, (vol. lxxi. p. 248); the other in the Annates du Museum for 1811. (vol. xvm. p. 88). In the Urst of these, Blainville has briefly characterized what he considers as three species, under the following names: (1). Squalus Gunnerianus; distinguished principally by the want (?) of temporal orifices, and the presence of an anal fin: this, which is intended for the original fish observed by Gunner, (with reference to which Linnaeus established his species,) he regards the same as Pennant's, supposing this last to have been without temporal orifices, on which point Pennant is silent. (2). S. peregrinus; in which there are neither temporal orifices nor anal: the type of this species is in the Museum at Faris. (3). S. Homianus; distinguished by the presence of temporal orifices, and the absence of an anal: this species is founded upon the specimen described by Sir E. Home, and named after him. In his second memoir, Blainville has given a most elaborate description of both the external and internal characters of a large shark brought to Paris in 1810, which he regards as a fourth species, characterized by the presence of both temporal orifices and anal, the former, however, being extremely small. With this last he associates the " Basking Shark, male," figured by Shaw in his " General Zoology," (vol. v. part ii. pl. 149)., the drawing of which was probably taken from the specimen mentioned by that author as having been captured on the coast of Dorsetshire, but to which no description is annexed.

It is much to be desired that any of our own naturalists who may have an opportunity of observing any individuals of the species usually termed Basking Shark, would take as accurate and detailed a description as possible of the several parts, and compare it afterwards with that given by Blainville in the second of the above memoirs, which should serve as a standard of comparison in all future cases. It is particularly important that they note the presence or absence of temporal orifices and an anal fin, which are so small (compared with the entire bulk of the animal) as to be easily overlooked. They should also attend to the form of the teeth, the nature of the skin, and the size, as well as form and position, of the branchial openings.

See Reg. An. torn. ii. p. 391. note (1).

(7. Spinax, Cuv).