Sharks are some of nature’s most fearsome predators, best known for their razor-sharp teeth and powerful jaws, and have earned a reputation as some of the most formidable inhabitants of the oceans.
It is important to note that despite a generic reputation for being deadly, all sharks are different.
In truth, there are a huge range of species and types of sharks, each with its own unique features and identifying elements.
Ready to learn more about the various types of sharks in the world? Then read on for all you need to know!
What Is A Shark?
A shark is defined as being an animal from the order Chondrichthyes (shark). This wider group includes the rays, skates, chimeras, and sharks.
Scientifically, sharks are designated and classified as fish, but there are differences between sharks and kinds of fish that most of us are likely to be familiar with; sharks do swim in quite the same way as other fish; instead, they glide through the water using specialized pectoral fins.
In addition, their bodies are covered by tough skin, and they use rows of serrated teeth to catch prey.
Sharks can be found around every continent except Antarctica.
They live in both saltwater and freshwater environments. Some species prefer shallow coastal waters, while others thrive in deeper oceanic regions.
There are over 400 different species of sharks, and many of them are now sadly endangered due to hunting or fishing pressure – despite the formidable nature and reputation of sharks, humans are ultimately their most significant, dangerous predator.
Characteristics Of Sharks
As we have mentioned, there are a wide variety of shark types and species, and many of these have a range of features and characteristics.
There are, however, some common elements that make a shark a shark, and some of these primary characteristics include:
Sharks have a specific, distinctive shape which helps to identify them.
Most sharks have a long, streamlined body with a rounded head. They usually have three pairs of large pectoral fins on either side of their heads.
Most sharks are between five and ten feet (1.5-3 m) long. However, some species grow much larger than this.
For example, the great white shark has been recorded at up to 20 ft (6 m) in length!
Sharks have a set of teeth designed to tear flesh apart. Each tooth is made up of several layers of hard enamel and dentin, which is softer than bone.
When a shark bites down, it uses its jaw muscles to crush the food into small pieces.
There are four main types of teeth, and different species may have a different type depending on their diet.
Most sharks are dark brown or black, although some species are reddish-brown or yellow.
The coloration may vary depending on the environment where the shark lives.
Sharks are generally solitary creatures, living alone or in small groups.
They spend most of their time cruising slowly through the water, searching for prey.
When they find something edible, they will bite down on it with their strong jaws.
Once they have eaten enough, they will return to the surface to breathe air before diving again.
Sharks eat almost anything that moves.
They feed on fish, squid, crustaceans, cephalopods, and even other sharks, as well as almost any kind of meat, including fish, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
They do not need to rest during feeding periods, but instead, simply cruise along until they spot a suitable meal.
Sharks are typically found near the bottom of oceans, rivers, lakes, and other freshwater habitats.
They also inhabit the open sea, and some species migrate from one area to another.
Sharks reproduce throughout the year. Females give birth to live young after mating.
This process takes place inside the mother’s uterus. After giving birth, she returns to the surface to breathe.
She then dives back down and repeats the cycle over and over again.
How Many Sharks Are There In The World?
There are more than 400 different kinds of sharks in the world today.
Some of these are very rare, while others are more commonly seen and identified – the world of film has done a lot to boost the profile of Great Whites!
The number of sharks in the world is sadly declining, and this is thought to be due to an increase in demand for shark products, such as shark’s fin soup.
Shark populations are now under threat because of this increasing demand, so protecting sharks is important if we want to keep them around for future generations.
What Are Some Of The Most Common Types Of Sharks?
Great White Sharks
These are probably the best-known type of sharks. They can grow to lengths of up to 20ft (6 m), making them the largest predatory fish in the ocean.
Their name comes from the fact that they are often spotted off the coast of South Africa.
Mako sharks are named after their unique markings. They are found all around the globe but are most common in tropical waters.
These sharks have been known to reach lengths of up to 15ft (4.5 m).
Hammerheads are characterized by large heads and short bodies.
They are usually found swimming near the surface of the water.
Hammerhead sharks are considered harmless to humans, but they are still hunted for their fins.
Bull sharks are among the fastest swimmers in the ocean.
They can move at speeds of up to 30mph (48 km/h) when hunting.
They prefer warm waters and are most active between April and September.
Whale sharks are the second-largest fish in the ocean. They are slow-moving animals, spending much of their time lying motionless on the seafloor.
They are only found in the western Indian Ocean and are usually no longer than 25ft (8 m).
Leopard sharks are fast swimmers and are sometimes called ‘bulldogs’ because of their powerful jaws.
They are found in all parts of the world, except polar regions. They are usually less than 10ft (3 m) long.
Sharks are fascinating creatures with plenty to offer and form a key element of many ecosystems.
Sadly, their numbers are in decline due to hunting and the activities of humans, and it is crucial that we work with conservation groups to preserve these wonderful creatures.