When a shark attack occurs, the type of shark that bit a person is documented to the best of a person’s abilities and that attack is categorized. The most dangerous sharks, in order of unprovoked attacks, are the great white shark, the striped tiger shark, and the bull shark.
Tracking Shark Bites
The Florida Museum of Natural History keeps track of all known shark bites on humans, dating back to 1580. An important thing to keep in mind about this list is that, while every effort is made to correctly identify the shark species, some sharks closely resemble each other and may be misidentified.
Easily identifiable species typically include sharks such as the great white shark, the hammerhead shark, and the tiger shark. Carcharhinus species, which include the requiem sharks, often fail to be correctly identified, which may skew the list.
The museum cautions that any shark of a large enough size can cause harm to people, even if they are of a species that does not typically cause injury. The general size that can do damage is a shark six feet long or bigger because even if they don’t intend to bite a person, they can still inflict significant damage.
The “Big Three” sharks — great whites, tigers, and bull sharks — are large species and are often found in areas where people may be in the water, such as around coastal areas of the United States and Australia. These sharks also have teeth that are designed to shear rather than hold their prey still.
What Is the Most Aggressive Shark?
The most aggressive shark is considered the great white shark, which has over 300 documented unprovoked attacks on people. While around 100 shark bites generally occur each year around the world, between one third and one half are considered to be great white shark attacks.
Great white sharks are the largest predatory species of fish or sharks. While they typically grow to around 15 feet in length, there have been documented specimens that were over 20 feet long and an estimated 5,000 pounds.
Great white sharks tend to all feature a white underbelly, which is where they got their name, while their upper bodies are typically slate gray in color, allowing them to blend in with the coastal sea floor. They can swim at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour, and, much like certain whales, they have the ability to completely breach the water, generally done when attacking prey.
These predators of the deep feature up to 300 teeth arranged in rows, and while their typical prey includes seals, sea lions, and small whales, they have been known to “sample bite” humans, likely just checking the taste.
When looking at a list of the most dangerous sharks, tiger sharks come in near the top of the list, just behind great whites.
Tiger sharks get their name from the dark, vertical stripes that are found on these sharks. They are typically most prominent on juvenile sharks, and the stripes begin to fade as they age until they all but disappear.
Tiger sharks are highly dangerous when they bite a person. Unlike a great white shark that may bite a human and will usually swim away afterwards without having any interest in eating them, tiger sharks don’t seem to have discerning tastes: they will not usually swim away after biting a person.
Tiger sharks tend to be scavengers although they will fed on just about anything, with contents of their stomachs ranging from seals to old rubber tires. Their sharp, serrated teeth, combined with powerful jaws, enables them to crack open everything from clams to sea turtle shells.
Coming in at third on the list of most dangerous sharks is the bull shark. These sharks are common in coastal waters around the world and tend to be aggressive, increasing the chance that they might take a bite out of a human.
Unlike most other sharks, bull sharks will readily enter freshwater or brackish water areas, and they have been found far inland within rivers, rather than being limited to the deep ocean waters. Their aggressive tendencies and widespread habitat makes them considered one of the most aggressive sharks.
Bull sharks get their name because they have a short and blunted snout, similar to that of a bull. They have a thick body, with grey coloring on the top, dark tips on their fins, and a white underbelly.
While bull sharks don’t seem to favor people as prey, typically eating fish and dolphins, they will bite people, whether it is because they like the taste or simply let their curiosity get the better of them, researchers don’t always know.
The most aggressive sharks, which are also the most dangerous sharks, include the great white shark, the tiger shark, and the bull shark.
They tend be widespread species that populate waters where people frequent, and some species, such as the tiger shark, are indiscriminate eaters.