If you spend time watching shows on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel, you have probably seen shows about sharks, and that lead many to wonder about all of the different shark species. Sharks have lived on this Earth for millions of years, and they have plenty of adaptations to life in the deep blue sea.
How Many Types of Sharks Are There?
Alive today, there are eight orders of sharks that they can be classified into. Within these eight taxonomic orders, there are over 500 different types of sharks. These range from the mysterious Megamouth Shark to the ever popular Great White Shark. You can find these sharks largely in the oceans, but some sharks can be found in freshwater rivers, such as the Bull Shark.
- Squatiniformes: Monkfish and Angelsharks
- Pristiophoriformes: Sawsharks
- Squaliformes: Cookiecutter sharks and Dogfish (Yes this must be the coolest order of sharks)
- Carcharhiniformes: SwellSharks, shysharks, hammerhead sharks, weasel sharks and others
- Lamniformes: Great white, Mackerel Shark, Sandtiger, Mako sharks and others
- Orectolobiformes: Nurse, Wobbegong, Zebra, Whale sharks and others
- Heterodontiformes: Horn and Bullhead Sharks
- Hexanchiformes: Cow sharks and Frilled sharks
Sharks are a type of fish rather than mammals, and they have a cartilaginous skeleton that helps them move with some flexibility. Sharks are traditionally found in the oceans around the world, with different species preferring different water temperatures. Some, such as the Salmon Shark, prefers to live near the polar ice caps, while the giant Whale Shark tends to be found in more tropical waters around the Equator. Some species, such as the river shark, are found in freshwater rivers, but these sharks are incredibly rare and very little is known about them.
Sharks have existed on the Earth for more than 420 million years.
One extinct shark that is popular with shark lovers is the Megalodon. This shark species was one of the largest sharks in history and was a ferocious predator, much like today’s smaller but no less fearsome Great White Shark.
Sharks have gills that allow them to breathe, rather than having lungs like mammals. They also have multiple sets of replaceable teeth, which are a popular souvenir for people to search for along some beaches. Sharks have a rather tough skin that helps to protect them. It is covered with dermal denticles that helps to protect them from trauma and parasites, as well as allowing them to move through the water with ease.
Of the different shark species, there are several apex predators. These are animals that are at the top of their food chain, with little to no predators of their own. Some of these include the Tiger Shark, the Mako Shark, the Hammerhead Shark, and, of course, the Great White Shark.
Rare Shark Species
While a great deal is known about some sharks, such as the Great White Shark, other shark species are more of a mystery. Many of these sharks live deep within the oceans, as some of them live at depths of 2,000 meters or 6,600 feet.
The smallest of these sharks is the Dwarf Lanternshark. This shark typically found deep in the sea and is only around 7 inches long, so tiny you could hold it in your hand. This shark is so rare that it has only been found in areas off the coast of Columbia and Venezuela, and scientists don’t know how truly rare it is because population counts are difficult. Like many deep-sea sharks and fish, the Dwarf Lanternshark can produce light from an array of photophores.
Another rare type of shark is the Goblin Shark, which is also a deep-sea shark. It has pink skin and an elongated and flat snout, complete with protrusible jaws that contain teeth similar to nails. While most specimens are 10 to 13 feet long, the Goblin Shark can get larger. Adults tend to be found in deeper waters than juveniles, and its flabby body suggests that it may be rather sluggish in its movements.
More Common Types of Sharks
Not all sharks are rare. In fact, there are many that are downright common. You can see them in aquariums all around the world, and you might accidentally catch one when out deep sea fishing. One of the most well known sharks is the Great White Shark. Considered one of the world’s most famous apex predators, this shark is responsible for more reported human shark attacks than any other shark. It is fast and tends to attack the underbelly of its prey. These sharks can be found in temperate waters around the world, often being found off the coat of the United States and Australia.
Hammerhead Sharks are a relatively unique type of shark that is not uncommon. Three of the nine species are considered dangerous to humans. They have a T-shaped head that it is named for, and this allows the eyes to see almost 360 degrees around them at one time. They have a wider distribution of the ampules of Lorenzini than many other sharks, which allows them to detect prey easier.
There are many different types of sharks, and many have unique features that make them incredible to learn about. From the giant Whale Shark that manages to thrive on plankton to the Angel Shark that resembles a stingray, there’s something different about each of these animals. Take the time to learn more about the shark species in the waters around you, and it’ll really open up your eyes.