The very first thought which comes to our mind when we think of a shark is a scary huge underwater creature which takes seconds to tear us apart with their jaws. The shark is considered to be the largest fish in the sea belonging to the Chondrichthyes class of fish. The characteristics of a shark are that it has a cartilaginous skeleton, five-seven gill slits, and pectoral fins. The existence of sharks dates back to more than 300 million years.
Speaking about the types of sharks, there are about 400-500 species of sharks. One surprising fact about sharks is that not all are dangerous to humans. Also, you will find that some sharks are small in size and are just a few centimeters in length. Here we are going to share 15 popular species of sharks and some of their facts which you might be interested in knowing about.
15 Types of Sharks – Characteristics and Facts
Below is the list of the 15 most popular species of sharks along with some of the characteristics and facts about them.
1. Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus)
The oceanic whitetip sharks are huge sharks that have distinctive round and white-tipped fins. These slow-moving sharks are said to be active both during the day as well as night. They are found in deep oceans which are far away from the shores. These types of sharks live in tropical as well as sub-tropical waters. Also, the oceanic whitetip sharks keep swimming very deep into the waters and prefer warm water. These sharks are very aggressive thereby making them fierce predators.
2. Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)
The whale shark is popular as the largest variety of sharks as well as the largest species of fish on the planet. The maximum length of a whale shark can be up to 65 feet while the maximum weight can be up to 75,000 pounds. The interesting fact about the whale shark is that this huge creature depends on the smallest creatures in the ocean for its food (like crustaceans and planktons). These sharks are usually found in the deep waters of the ocean. You can find whale sharks in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, mostly in warm waters. There is hardly any threat to human beings from these giant whale sharks.
3. Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
The shortfin mako shark which is otherwise known as the Blue pointer or Bonito shark is the fastest swimming shark species on earth, owing to its bullet-shaped body which adds to speed. According to a study done in the late 1990s, these sharks have recorded a maximum travel speed of 40 mph. These large cylindrical-shaped sharks can leave a number of sports cars behind when it comes to speed. Shortfin mako sharks are believed to be the most intelligent of all the shark species, thanks to their quick-learning ability. These shark species are found in Panama City Beach.
4. Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)
Nurse sharks are usually found on the ocean bottom as they are bottom-dwellers. They boast of high tolerance levels when it comes to human interference. These types of sharks are the most inactive shark species. These non-aggressive sharks sleep in the daytime and try to find out small creatures for their food at night. They mostly feed on squid, conchs, and sea urchins. This species of shark is usually found in coastal regions on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
5. Silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis)
The silky shark is known by different names like blackspot shark, ridgeback shark, grey whaler shark, sickle shark, olive shark. These sharks are named so because of the silky texture of their skin. These sharks are slender and long which usually grow to an average length of 12 feet. These sharks are more popular for their strong sense of hearing. Silky sharks fall on the list of endangered shark species. Coming to their life expectancy, it is around 22 years. The gestation period of silky sharks is around 1 year and it gives birth to around 15 to 20 pups at a go. This species of shark is found abundantly in the pelagic zone and in tropical waters all over the world.
6. Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)
Tiger shark features tiger-like stripes on his body as the name suggests. However, these stripes fade away after the shark enters adulthood. These sharks mostly depend on marine food which includes fishes, seals, dolphins, turtles, and few other water creatures for their food. They are actually said to eat anything be it scavenged dead animals or some garbage. The tiger sharks are huge sharks that grow to a maximum length of 18 feet and to a maximum weight of up to 2000 pounds. Tiger sharks are said to be more harmful to humans in comparison to other shark species. They are mostly found in tropical and subtropical regions.
7. Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
The great white shark is the biggest of all the underwater (ocean) predatory sharks. As such, this shark helps in controlling the count of sea lions and elephants in the ocean, owing to its fearful image. The length of the great white shark is about 20 feet and it weighs about 6,600 pounds. As per National Geographic, great white sharks are capable of detecting one drop of blood in 25 gallons of water, up to 3 miles away. These sharks depend on various marine creatures which include smaller sharks too. These sharks are found in tropical and temperate waters around the world.
8. Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas)
Bull sharks boast huge bodies and are of a great threat to humans in particular, owing to their strong bite. They carry much aggressive behavior not just towards humans but also other shark species. These sharks can grow to a maximum length of 11.5 and to a maximum weight of up to 500 pounds. The bull sharks can thrive not just in freshwater but also in saltwater regions.
9. Lemon Shark (Negaprion brevirostris)
Lemon sharks are called so owing to their light-colored, brownish-yellow skin. And this yellow color of the sharks helps them mixing with their habitat thereby protecting them from hunters. The vision of these sharks is very poor. Nevertheless, they can still find and catch their prey, thanks to their nose which has magnetic sensors. The lemon sharks can grow to a maximum length of about 11 feet. They are usually found in shallow water. These are one of the extensively researched shark species as they can be kept captivated for longer time periods.
10. Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrnidae)
There are a number of species of hammerhead sharks that form the Sphyrnidae family like the mallethead, scoophead, winghead, great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, and bonnethead sharks. These sharks feature a typical hammer-like head structure. Their eyes are positioned in such a way that they can see in full 360 degrees. Till date, nine hammerhead species have been discovered. These sharks are found in tropical and warm temperate oceans of all the continents (except Antarctica).
11. Dwarf Lanternshark (Etmopterus perryi)
Dwarf Lanternshark, as the name suggests is the smallest shark species found on the planet. This shark species was first identified in the year 1964 after the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has gone with their research. These sharks grow to a maximum length of 20 cm. They are more popular as bioluminescent species which gives them the ability to produce their own light.
12. Pocket Shark (Mollisquama parini and Mollisquama mississippiensis)
Pocket sharks got their name owing to pockets in front of both gills. This species was discovered in 1979 by a group of researchers in deep water several miles off the coast of Chile. As the shark species were small and had pockets in both gills, they got the name pocket shark or mollisquama parini. They grow to a maximum length of 14 cm and weigh only up to 14.6 g.
13. Grey Reef Shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos)
The grey reef sharks depend on free-swimming bony fishes and cephalopods for their food. One can find these sharks mostly in shallow water near coral reefs. These sharks can grow to a maximum length of 5-6 feet and weigh up to 66 pounds. This species of shark has a fishing threat for commercial purposes owing to its small size. As such, very soon these sharks can enter the list of endangered shark species according to experts. These sharks boast an amazing sense of smell and have very sharp teeth.
14. Leopard Shark (Triakis semifasciata)
Leopard sharks are mostly found off the California coast. They are known as leopard sharks owing to the dark splotches on their skin. These sharks are said to have no human threat. These sharks grow up to a maximum length of 4.9 feet. San Diego Zoo suggests that there have been no records of a leopard shark killing anyone till date.
15. Sevengill Shark (Notorynchus cepedianus)
The sevengill sharks have thick bodies along with seven gills on their body side unlike most of the sharks which have five gills. These sharks are also known as ‘cow sharks’. The sevengill sharks depend on octopuses, bony fishes, rays, and some other sharks for their food. These sharks have a unique set of teeth – the upper jaw teeth are pointed whereas the lower jaw teeth are shaped like a comb. As per Monterrey Bay Aquarium, there have been no records of any sevengill shark attacks in the water.
Hope this article might be of help to you in knowing about the popular shark species and their types.