Whenever we hear the word ‘shark’ our minds automatically picture a large, scary underwater monster that could tear us apart in a blink of an eye. Credit to ‘Jaws’ but it is not quite the actual reality.
There are more than 500 shark species known to us, and not all are scary and dangerous. Some sharks are just a few centimeters in size. Some are even friendly to humans.
Below, we have compiled an interesting list of well-known shark species that you should know.
19. Whale Shark
A whale shark
Binary Nomenclature: Rhincodon typus
Maximum Length: 18.8 m
Maximum Weight: 11,018 kg
The whale shark is the largest fish species on earth and the largest known non-mammalian vertebrate. They are one of the three filter-feeding shark species that feed only on small fishes and planktons.
It’s a migratory shark species usually found in deep oceans; about 1,200 meters below the ocean surface. However, they are known to dive as much as 1,800 meters below the surface on rare occasions.
Despite its ginormous size, whale sharks pose almost no threat to humans and are even friendly to deep divers.
18. Lemon Shark
A lemon shark
Binary Nomenclature: Negaprion brevirostris
Highest Length: 3.4 kg
Weight: 183 kg
Lemon sharks are live-bearing (giving birth to young ones), migratory shark species which are usually found in subtropical waters. They are known to live in groups and have a specific locale for mating.
Such behavior not only protects them from predators (larger sharks) but also allow them to better communicate with each other. They have a flattened head and are mostly brownish-yellow in appearance, hence the name.
17. Megamouth Shark
Megamouth Shark on display at Toba Aquarium, Japan
Binary Nomenclature: Megachasma pelagios
Length: 5.4 m
Weight: 1,215 kg
The first Megamouth shark was discovered in 1976 a few miles away from the coast of Hawaii. Since then, only about a hundred Megamouths have been sighted globally. Even though megamouths are deepwater sharks and rarely spotted by humans, they can be easily recognized by their glowing upper lips.
Unlike its filter-feeding cousins, megamouths are less active and relatively poor swimmers.
16. Basking Shark
Binary Nomenclature: Cetorhinus maximus
Length: 8 m
Weight: 4,700 kg
Basking sharks are the second-largest shark species after the gigantic whale sharks. Like megamouth and whale sharks, they feed on planktonic food using the filter-feeding method.
Every so often, basking sharks can be seen swimming slowly at the surface with their mouth wide open, filtering zooplankton and small fishes from water. They usually live in temperate waters, but can also be found near the equator.
15. Great White Shark
A Great white shark | Image Courtesy: Terry Goss
Binary Nomenclature: Carcharodon carcharias
Length: 6 m
Weight: 1,900 kg
The great white shark is a predatory shark species that feed upon a variety of marine animals including smaller sharks. They are hostile towards humans as no other shark species has more reported human-biting incidents than the great white.
They have one of the most sensitive electroreceptors among all cartilaginous fishes that allows them to sense the heartbeat of even a motionless animal from close range. A study conducted in 2008 revealed that a great white shark, weighing around 3,324 kg, could exert 18,216 newtons of force in its bite.
They are found globally in tropical and temperate waters.
14. Oceanic Whitetip Shark
Oceanic whitetip shark accompanied by pilot fishes | Image Courtesy: peter-koelbl.de
Binary Nomenclature: Carcharhinus longimanus
Maximum Length: 4 m
Maximum Weight: 170 kg
Oceanic whitetips are slow-moving, large sharks that are recognized by their distinctive round, white-tipped fins. They are found globally in tropical and sub-tropical waters usually away from the shores.
Oceanic whitetip sharks are known for their stubborn behavior as they often tend to trail things that appear like food to them. Furthermore, their ultra-aggressive nature makes them a fierce predator.
It is a common sight for whitetips to be followed by a group of small pilot fish. They maintain a mutualistic relationship and are consumed by the shark in extremely rare cases.
13. Tiger Shark
A juvenile tiger shark
Binary Nomenclature: Galeocerdo cuvier
Length: 3.25 m to 4.25 m
Weight: 385 kg to 635 kg
Tiger sharks are at the very top of the marine food chain. They prey on fish, turtles, seals, dolphins and a variety of other marine animals including smaller sharks. Artificial or man-made objects have also been found inside their stomach.
These sharks live in solitary and are mostly found near the coastal areas in tropical and subtropical regions. Tiger sharks pose a much greater threat to humans than almost all other shark species (except the great white sharks).
12. Shortfin Mako Shark
Shortfin mako shark
Binary Nomenclature: Isurus oxyrinchus
Maximum Length: 3.8 m
Heaviest: 600 kg
The shortfin mako is the fastest swimming shark species on the planet. The highest recorded speed at which these sharks can travel is 40 mph. In fact, they are able to accelerate faster than many sports cars. They are fairly large and cylindrical in shape.
A research conducted in the late 1990s revealed that shortfins are fast-learners and might be the most intelligent shark species of all. Though not usually aggressive towards humans, they are considered extremely dangerous due to their speed and raw strength.
11. Bull Shark
Binary Nomenclature: Carcharhinus leucas
Average Length: 2.4 m
Average Weight: 130 kg
The bull shark is perhaps the only shark species that can thrive in both freshwater and saltwater environments. While they are naturally found near the coastline, it is not uncommon for them to travel far up in rivers.
Bull sharks are also known for their aggressive behavior towards humans as well as other shark species. Along with great white and tiger sharks, they are far more likely to attack humans. There are many confirmed instances in which bull sharks have bitten swimmers near beaches and harbor inlets.
10. Broadnose sevengill shark
A broadnose sevengill shark
Binary Nomenclature: Notorynchus cepedianus
Maximum Length: 3 m (adult female)
Weight: 59 to 70 kg
A broadnose sevengill shark is different from an ordinary shark in many ways. For example, its dorsal fin is further down the spine close to its caudal or tail fin, but most importantly its feature the most gill slits (seven) of any other shark species.
They feed on a wide variety of marine animals from bony fishes to rays. It is known to hunt even smaller sharks.
9. Hammerhead Shark
Great hammerhead shark | Image Courtesy: Brian Skerry
Length: 6 m
Weight: 580 kg
Hammerhead shark is a common name used to identify several shark species with distinctive hammer-like head structure. So far nine species of hammerheads have been discovered, most of which are endangered or near threatened.
The unique positioning of the eyes in hammerhead sharks allows them to see full 360 degrees. It not only improves their depth perception but also makes them a superior predator.
Hammerheads are found along the coastlines of almost every continent (except Antarctica).
8. Nurse Shark
Nurse Shark | Image Courtesy: Gary Rinaldi
Binary Nomenclature: Ginglymostoma cirratum
Maximum Length: 3.08 m
Weight: 330 kg
The nurse shark is perhaps the most extensively studied shark species on the planet as they are highly tolerant of human interference and don’t usually retaliate offensively during their capture.
Nurse sharks are bottom-dwellers; usually found in deep reefs, corals to seek shelter and food. They are common in coastal regions on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
7. Blacktip Reef Shark
Blacktip reef shark in the Solomon Islands | Image Courtesy: Flickr
Binary Nomenclature: Carcharhinus melanopterus
Average Length: 1.6 m
Weight: 13.6 kg
Blacktip reef is a relatively small shark species that are easily recognized by their distinctive black-tipped fins. They thrive in shallow inshore waters and sometimes found on the coral platforms or along the reef ledges.
Ordinarily, these sharks are cautious around humans and easily frightened by deep divers, however, there are few documented cases of unprovoked attacks by this species.
Blacktip reefs are a common sight in the Indo-Pacific region.
6. Sand Tiger Shark
A sand tiger shark in Newport Aquarium | Image Courtesy: Jeff Kubina
Binary Nomenclature: Carcharias taurus
Length: 2 m to 3.2 m
Weight: 91 kg to 159 kg
Sand tiger sharks (unrelated to tiger sharks) are found along the submerged shorelines in tropical and subtropical waters. They are known by various names such as grey nurse shark and blue-nurse sand tiger.
Sand tigers have a pointed head but with flattened snout. They prefer to swim with mouths open displaying their sharp, pointed tooth.
However, despite their intimidating build and sharp teeth, these sharks do not pose any serious threat to humans.
5. Brownbanded Bamboo Shark
Brownbanded bambooshark at the KLCC Aquaria
Binary Nomenclature: Chiloscyllium punctatum
Average Length: 1.4 m
The brownbanded bamboo shark is one of the smallest shark species on earth and one of the few that can be kept as a pet. This species is indigenous to coastal regions of the West Pacific.
As the name suggests, they are brownish in appearance. Juvenile sharks, however, feature dark patterns or bands that only grow faint as they age.
A Japanese Shawshark
Average Length: 1.5 m
Average Weight: 8.4 kg
Sawshark is a common name for a distinctive shark family that has long, saw-like snout, which they use to catch and incapacitate preys. There are eight different species of sawsharks found in the world oceans.
Though each sawshark species is physically unique in one way or the other, they all have few things in common. For example, all eight species feature a pair of barbels (a whiskers-like sensory organ) hanging halfway along the snout.
The longnose sawshark, also known as the common sawshark, stand out from the rest due to its extremely long snout.
3. Thresher shark
Common thresher shark | Wikimedia Commons
Length: 6.1 m (common thresher)
Weight: 500 kg
Thresher sharks are named after their long scythe-like tails or caudal fins, which they use to stun and often slash their prey. These sharks are found both in open waters and along the shorelines globally.
So far three species of thresher sharks have been discovered. While these sharks do not pose a direct threat to humans, there are few reported cases in which swimmers have been injured by their upper tail.
2. Dwarf Lanternshark
Dwarf Lanternshark | Image Courtesy: Smithsonian Institute
Binary Nomenclature: Etmopterus perryi
Length: 0.2 m or 20 cm
The world’s smallest shark on record, the dwarf lanternshark was first discovered in 1964 following a research conducted by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. This species, as it stands, is only found in small pockets off the coast of Venezuela and Colombia.
Dwarf lanternsharks are recognized by their long, flattened head and proportionately large eyes. Moreover, it is a bioluminescent species, meaning they are capable of producing light of their own.
1. Pocket Shark
American Pocket shark | Image Courtesy: Mark Doosey/Tulane University
Binary Nomenclature: Mollisquama parini and Mollisquama mississippiensis
Length: 14 cm
Weight: 14.6 g
In 1979, a group of researchers discovered a shark specimen of completely unknown species several miles off the coast of Chile. It was small and had unusual pockets in front of both gills. As a result, the specimen gave birth to an entire new shark species called mollisquama parini or pocket shark.
It remained the only individual of its species until an almost identical shark was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, which, according to a recent study, is classified as a completely new species. It’s named mollisquama mississippiensis or American pocket shark.