When talking about shark families, our seas and oceans are home to 8 orders comprising 37 different types of sharks, most of which are crucial to the health of aquatic ecosystems.

Moreover, these separate families include over 500 different shark species that vary in size, body type, whether or not they have fins, number of gills, and more.

Below, we list the eight main shark orders and the most popular species among them.

What Are Shark Types?

Before discussing the kinds of sharks inhabiting our oceans, we should clarify that biologists do not use the terms ‘types’ and ‘kinds’ to categorize living species.

Instead, life is classified into eight taxonomic ranks, with ‘species’ being the lowest and narrowest group of living organisms that can produce offspring.

Therefore, when using kinds or types of sharks, we are referring to the broader shark family (6th taxonomic rank) to which separate genera (7th rank) and species (8th rank) belong.

Different Types of Sharks

As members of the Selachimorpha superorder, all types of sharks have a cartilaginous skeleton, gill slits, and pectoral fins, which they use to swim, hunt, and maintain order and diversity in their habitats since a number of them are considered apex predators.

But how many different types of sharks are there?

Well, biologists categorize the hundreds of different species of sharks into eight overarching orders, i.e., groups of sharks with distinct external characteristics:

  1. Angel sharks (Squatiniformes)—no anal fin, flattened body, terminal mouth;
  2. Sawsharks (Pristiophoriformes)—no anal fin, elongated sawlike snout, ventral mouth;
  3. Dogfish sharks (Squaliformes)—no anal fin, short smooth snout, ventral mouth;
  4. Cow and frilled sharks (Hexanchiformes)—anal fin, 6 or 7 gill slits, one dorsal fin;
  5. Ground sharks (Carcharhiniformes)—anal fin, 5 gill slits, 2 dorsal fins, no fin spines, mouth behind eyes, nictitating eyelids, spiral or scroll intestinal valve;
  6. Mackerel sharks (Lamniformes)—anal fin, 5 gill slits, 2 dorsal fins, no fin spines, mouth behind eyes, lack of nictitating eyelids, ring intestinal valve;
  7. Carpet sharks (Orectolobiformes)—anal fin, 5 gill slits, 2 dorsal fins, no fin spines, mouth in front of eyes;
  8. Bullhead sharks (Heterodontiformes)—anal fin, 5 gill slits, 2 dorsal fins, dorsal fin spines present.

types of sharks

source: en.wikipedia.org

Did you know: Only 20% of the Earth’s Ocean has been explored so far!

Different Species of Sharks

Now that we’ve reviewed the main groups of sharks, let’s look at the most popular and often deadly species and breeds of sharks belonging to these main groups.

1. Great White Shark

  • Maximum weight: 2,268 kg
  • Maximum length: 6.1 m
  • Maximum lifespan: 70 years
  • Order: Mackerel shark
  • Family: White sharks
  • Binomial name: Carcharodon carcharias

Great White Shark

source: www.wikipedia.org

Probably one of the most known types of sharks in the aquatic wild that is also unjustly known as a ferocious man-eater on our TV screens is the great white.

This aggressive apex predator—and the world’s largest predatory fish—doesn’t fear any other species as it’s on top of the food chain in the oceanic ecosystem.

However, studies show that the great white isn’t really interested in humans, and they attack only when provoked or mistake swimmers for seals.

Despite being rarely fatal, an attack that involves 300 serrated, triangular teeth is far from a pleasant experience, and it has been inspiring horror stories for centuries.

On top of that, this predator has an exceptional sense of smell, receptors that can feel animal-generated electromagnetic fields, and a burst speed of up to 25 mph, which makes it one of the fastest sharks in the world.

2. Tiger Shark

  • Maximum weight: Over 1,000 kg
  • Maximum length: 5.5 m
  • Maximum lifespan: Longer than 12 years
  • Order: Ground shark
  • Family: Requiem shark
  • Binomial name: Galeocerdo cuvier

Tiger Shark

source: www.wikipedia.org

The Tiger Shark is another “aggressive” predator as it is second only to the great white in the number of recorded fatal attacks on humans, but again, they do not seek to do so.

In fact, the odds of getting bitten by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067.

Typically living near the coast in tropical and subtropical regions, tiger sharks get their name and are recognizable by the dark stripes down their bodies, which fade as they age.

Similar to the great white, tiger sharks use their keen sense of smell, electromagnetic receptors, and excellent eyesight to hunt anything from crustaceans to dolphins.

However, they still have big serrated teeth, and divers are always advised to keep their distance to avoid provoking a lethal attack, especially when swimming at night.

3. Blue Shark

  • Maximum weight: 204 kg
  • Maximum length: 3.8 m
  • Maximum lifespan: 20 years
  • Order: Ground shark
  • Family: Requiem shark
  • Binomial name: Prionace glauca

Blue Shark

source: www.wikipedia.org

The blue shark is a slim, long fish with a pointed snout and sharp-edged teeth that got its name from the deep blue of its overside, which is contrasted with its white underbelly.

While this shark is far from being small, its diet consists of relatively small prey like fish and squid, and it is the victim of larger sharks and killer whales.

When it comes to the mating process of this species, courtship is initiated when a male bites a female, which has adapted by developing skin three times as thick as that of the males.

Also, since the great blue has the most widespread geographic distribution (can be found in every ocean and most climates), it is one of the most important kinds of sharks for marine tourism, attracting the interest of divers and photographers all around the globe. 

4. Whale Shark

  • Maximum weight: 15,000 kg
  • Maximum length: Over 18 m
  • Maximum lifespan: 130 years
  • Order: Carpet shark
  • Family: Whale shark
  • Binomial name: Rhincodon typus

Whale Shark

source: www.wikipedia.org

Being the biggest fish in the sea world that can even reach the size of a school bus is not the only interesting fact about whale sharks, as they also feed on plankton, krill, fish eggs, larvae, and small squid and fish, despite their gigantic size.

So, unlike the shark types described above, the whale shark shows even less interest in humans as they are non-aggressive and will even allow swimmers to hitch a ride!

Diving enthusiasts can find these large sharks in tropical warmer waters and recognize them by their flattened heads, which feature blunt snouts above their mouths.

Moreover,  they have short barbels protruding from their nostrils, and their bellies are white, with the back sides colored gray to brown and peppered with white spots.

5. Great Hammerhead Shark

  • Maximum weight: 580 kg
  • Maximum length: 6.1 m
  • Maximum lifespan: 30 years
  • Order: Ground shark
  • Family: Hammerhead shark
  • Binomial name: Sphyrna mokarran

Great Hammerhead Shark

source: www.wikipedia.org

As the largest representative of the hammerhead family, the great hammerhead features a broad, streamlined body with a tall dorsal fin and distinct lobes protruding from their heads (cephalofoils) that offer a hydrodynamic advantage and/or sensory enhancement.

The great hammerhead is an apex predator that hunts alone for everything from crabs, squid, and octopus to other bony fishes and even smaller sharks, skates, and rays.

Moreover, it has a unique hunting approach, especially when going for stingrays—its favored prey. Essentially, it finds them with the receptors on its cephalofoils, pins them to the seabed, and takes a bite out of their side fins, thus incapacitating them before consummation.

While the great hammerhead enjoys the warm tropical climate, it is also a highly migratory species found in inshore waters, with a preference for islands, coral reefs, and lagoons.

6. Salmon Shark

  • Maximum weight: 450 kg
  • Maximum length: 4.3 m
  • Maximum lifespan: 25 years
  • Order: Mackerel shark
  • Family: White shark
  • Binomial name: Lamna ditropis

Salmon Shark

source: www.wikipedia.org

Out of all the different species of sharks in the mackerel family, the salmon shark is the one that most resembles the great white, despite being half its length.

However, while you might mistake it for its more notorious cousin when looking from the above, the salmon shark features distinct dark blotches on its underside, a secondary keel on its tail, a shorter snout, and lateral tooth cusplets.

Moreover, unlike the great white, no definite attacks on humans have been registered, and it only feeds on salmon, sablefish, herring, squid, and other similar animals.

One interesting fact is that the salmon shark is only one of few marine species able to maintain its own body temperature, regardless of the external environment.

7. Greenland Shark

  • Maximum weight: 1,400 kg
  • Maximum length: Over 7 m
  • Maximum lifespan: 500 years
  • Order: Squaliformes
  • Family: Sleeper shark
  • Binomial name: Somniosus microcephalus

Greenland Shark

source: www.wikipedia.org

Also known as the gurry or grey shark, this shark species got its name from its habitat—coastal locations all around Greenland, including Norway and Iceland.

Surprisingly, it is the second-longest shark on our list (after the whale shark), and it is discernible from its rounded snout, small fins, and gray to brown skin.

Also, the Greenland shark lives the longest out of all vertebrates (yes, that includes us, too!), with a maximum lifespan of 500 years; just imagine, there might be a Greenland shark out there that is even older than a large number of trees!

As for contact with humans, there has been no reported incident of a shark attack of any kind as it is relatively slow and inhabits the cold depths of the Arctic and North Atlantic.

Note: After proper treatment, Icelanders eat the flesh of the Greenland shark as a delicacy.

8. Spinner Shark

  • Maximum weight: 90 kg
  • Maximum length: 3 m
  • Maximum lifespan: 20 years
  • Type of shark: Ground shark
  • Family: Requiem shark
  • Binomial name: Carcharhinus brevipinna

Spinner Shark

source: www.wikipedia.org

While the spinner shark is another cousin to the infamous tiger shark, it does differ in appearance with its long, slender body, pointed snout, and black-marked fins. Moreover, its body changes color from gray to bronze with white coloring on its sides.

Instead of hunting in the deep, a herd of spinner sharks looks for prey in coastal areas and some offshore habitats at a depth of up to 100 m.

For instance, when feeding on forage fish, these predators speed up and move vertically through the school while spinning on their axis before jumping out of the water. Obviously, that’s how the spinner shark got its name!

Note that these breeds of sharks have such strong triangular teeth that they can cut through fish, smaller sharks, and squid. But, be that as it may, they usually don’t pose a danger to humans, with the exception of spearfishing divers.

9. Angelshark

  • Maximum weight: 80 kg
  • Maximum length: 2.4 m
  • Maximum lifespan: 35 years
  • Order: Angel shark
  • Family: Angel shark
  • Binomial name: Squatina squatina

Angelshark

source: www.wikipedia.org

Looking unlike any other shark on our list, the angelshark, also known as the monkfish, was once widespread in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean coastal regions but has been declared critically endangered by the IUCN due to overfishing.

Because of that, there are currently only 23 species of angel sharks left in the world.

Despite its significantly reduced numbers, this species still graces the sea floors with its camouflaging features—from the flattened batoid shape, greyish-to-brownish color, and enlarged pectoral and pelvic fins, which make it look more like a ray than a shark.

These sharks are nocturnal ambush predators, meaning they bury themselves and wait for prey to pass, specifically bony fishes, crustaceans, skates, and some invertebrates.

Note: The angeshark’s main predators are larger kinds of sharks and humans.

10. Bluntnose Sixgill Shark

  • Maximum weight: 900 kg
  • Maximum length: 6.1 m
  • Maximum lifespan: 80 years
  • Order: Cow and frilled shark
  • Family: Cow shark
  • Binomial name: Hexanchus griseus

Bluntnose Sixgill Shark

source: www.wikipedia.org

The bluntnose sixgill is the largest cow shark on our list and among the most primitive types of sharks as it has more relatives that have gone extinct than live ones.

As a result of its long evolution cycle, the bluntnose sixgill has a body composition that includes both primitive and modern physical characteristics.

This shark has a broad, blunt head and six pairs of long gill slits, which gave it its name, as well as yellow teeth, and a really long tail, which sets it apart from other fish.

Regarding human interaction, the bluntnose sixgill does not pose any threat to humans but has been exploited for food, sport, shark leather, and other supplements.

Conclusion

Sharks are a fascinating and diverse group of aquatic animals, most of which pose little to no threat to humans, despite their reputation as dangerous predators. Moreover, all types of sharks play an essential role in maintaining the balance of oceanic ecosystems and, consequently, the health of our planet, so we must preserve as many of them as we can!

FAQs

How many species of sharks attack humans?

Only around 30 species of sharks out of more than 500 have been implicated in unprovoked attacks on humans in the past. Moreover, no attack has been motivated by hunger as humans are not part of the sharks’ natural diet but instead out of confusion and curiosity.

When do sharks attack most?

Most shark attacks occur when they search for food during dawn and dusk, when visibility is limited during the evening, and when threatened or otherwise provoked.

Why were sharks called sea dogs?

Based on initial observations, in the 1550s, the French naturalist Pierre Belon named one species of shark canis carcharias, which contains the genus term for ‘dogs’ (canis) and the word ‘rugged’ (carcharos), which prompted the rise in popularity of the colloquialism ‘sea dogs’.

Also, young sharks are called pups, but they are not as friendly as land-based ones.

How many types of sharks are there?

Currently, there are 37 different types of sharks classified by families, which also comprise 500 different species, with new ones being discovered regularly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.