Basking Shark for Kids

Although the appearance of basking sharks may spark legends of ferocious sea monsters, this second largest species of shark poses no threat to humans. Its scientific name, Cetorhinus maximus, comes from Greek words meaning “marine monster”, “nose”, and “great”. Its other common names are elephant shark, bone shark and sun fish.

Because of its enormous size, the basking shark must always be treated with respect by humans. Although very tolerant of boats, swimmers, and divers, the basking shark is very large and could do some damage accidentally.

Habitat:

The basking shark is found in arctic (cold) and temperate (mild) waters worldwide. These sharks will venture off shore, but will also enter bays and estuaries, or inlets of the ocean. They are a highly migratory species of sharks, moving seasonally to find better sources of food and to give birth.

Most of the time, basking sharks are found close to the surface of the open areas of the ocean, swimming with mouths wide open. In fact, their tendency to bask, lie in the warmth of the sun, led to the name of the species.

Size/Color:

Basking sharks are only second to the whale shark when talking about size of sharks. Average basking sharks are between 22-29 feet. In fact, newborn basking sharks are believed to be 5-6 feet, which taller than a lot of adult humans. As adults, they can weigh a little more than 10,000 pounds, the size of nine adult polar bears!

The basking shark is grayish brown in color on its dorsal, or back, side. This color fades into lighter shades on the ventral, or stomach, side. It looks very similar to a great white shark and often is mistaken for its more aggressive relative.

Anatomy:

The basking shark’s head is one feature easily recognizable. Its snout, or nose, is cone shaped, and its head is nearly surrounded with large gill slits. Its mouth is wide (about 3 feet in width) and full of small, hooked teeth.

The basking shark is also known for having very rough placoid scales on its entire body. Placoid scales are bony, spiny projections with an enamel-like covering and are similar to teeth. The basking shark’s skin is as rough as sandpaper!

Diet:

The basking shark, along with the whale shark and megamouth shark, is one of only 3 shark species that are filter feeders. However, the basking shark is special because it does not actively feed through a suctioning technique. Instead, it swims passively with its mouth open wide and gulps in water. The tiny creatures found in the water, especially plankton, become food for the huge whale.

Due to its size, the basking shark must take in enormous amounts of water to make sure it is getting enough to eat. Scientists estimate the basking shark takes in about 2,000 TONS of water every HOUR!

  • Special Adaptations:

    The basking shark has a very large liver, which is about ¼ the size of its entire body. The liver helps with the sharks’ buoyancy, or ability to float in water. Despite its size, the liver of a basking shark literally helps keep it afloat. Without this special adaptation, the basking shark would sink like a rock! The liver also helps with storing energy.

  • Reproduction:

    There is limited information about the reproduction of basking sharks. What scientists do know is that baby basking sharks, called pups, are carried for about 2-3 years before being born! This is a much longer time frame than other shark species. Female basking sharks have small litters of 6 pups and only give birth once every 2-4 years.

  • Conservation Status:

    Unfortunately, this huge shark has faced a population decline in recent years. Scientists estimate an 80% decrease in population numbers in the last 60 years! This drastic decline has been due to overfishing. Basking sharks are prized for their very large liver, which is used to make oil. Their fins and other body parts are also used for food and medicine. They are listed as a Vulnerable species, and it now illegal to fish for basking sharks in many places.

Fun Fact about Basking Sharks:

  • Basking sharks are sometimes observedbreaching, or jumping, high out of the water. Imagine the splash this would cause! Some researchers believe they do this to rid themselves of parasites, living things that live on or in other living things.
  • The basking shark can weigh between 6,000 and 13,000 pounds.
  • It has a very large mouth and very highly developed gill rakers.
  • The basking shark has hundreds of small teeth but doesn’t use them when it is feeding. Because it eats plankton it swims with an open mouth.
  • It generally likes to swim in subpolar seas
  • They are not harmful to humans despite their large size
  • In some countries like the UK, New Zealand, Malta the basking shark is a protected species.

Blue Shark for Kids

The blue shark is known for its beautiful coloring and its swimming ability. Its scientific name, Prionaceglauca, comes from Greek words meaning “saw”, “point”, and “blue”. Its other common names are blue dog and blue whaler.

The blue shark is considered dangerous to humans. There have been documented attacks on both people and ships. Blue sharks are known to circle shipwreck victims, sometimes for up to 15 minutes. Although not considered an aggressive species, they will attack!

Habitat:

Blue sharks have a broad range. Some scientists regard them as the most widely distributed of all shark species because they are found in so many different areas of the world. The only coast they are not found off of is Antarctica!

They and are found in both temperate (mild) and tropical (hot) waters. Their favorite temperature is between 45-60 degrees Fahrenheit. They are also a species that prefer the open ocean, but have been known to move closer to the shoreline at times.

Size/Color:

The largest blue shark ever recorded was a little over 12 feet long. The average blue shark is between 6 and 10 feet with a weight of between 300-400 pounds.

Blue sharks have a distinct blue color with a crisp white underbelly. This color contrast on top and bottom is known as countershading. The sharks have a darker blue shade on their back and a brighter blue hue on their sides.

Anatomy:

The blue shark possesses a slender body and sometimes gets mistaken as pups of other shark species. Its tail fin is a unique shape with the top part of it being much longer than the bottom part. Put together, the blue shark’s body and tail shape not only give it an elegant appearance, but also enables it to swim fast and be quite acrobatic.

Diet:

The teeth of a blue shark are serrated and face inward allowing it to eat many different types of prey. The blue sharks’ favorite meal is squid, but they will also eat items commonly found on a human’s idea of a sea food buffet, such as shrimp and lobster. Bony fish, other sharks, and sea birds also find their way into their stomachs. Blue sharks take advantage of any food they can find and have been known to eat from fishing nets and dead marine animals. They are known to eat so much that they come close to bursting!

  • Special Adaptations:

    The gill slits of a blue shark are specially adapted to ensure it can eat even the smallest of sea creatures. They contain special finger-like projections that block escape of prey through the gill slit. This allows blue sharks to feed on tiny sea creatures such as anchovies and krill, tiny creatures similar to shrimp. This technique, similar to what a human could do with a straining net, enables the blue shark to take advantage of small creatures other shark species cannot eat due to size of prey.

  • Reproduction:

    Blue sharks are viviparous and give birth to live babies called pups that have been carried inside the mother. Female blue sharks carry babies for anywhere from 9-12 months. The size of the litter is believed to be related to the size of the mother. Litter sizes have been reported from 4-134 pups. The average size is 25-50 pups at one time. After birth, the baby sharks are on their own immediately.

Conservation Status:

Blue shark populations are affected by sports fishing and some commercial fishing. As with other sharks, their fins, skin, and other organs are harvested for human use. Despite its population abundance and wide range, there is cause for concern about overfishing. They are currently listed as Near Threatened.

 

Fact Attack:

  • Scientists have studied tagged blue sharks and discovered they are the nomads, or travelers, of the sea. Blue shark migrations are common from 1,200 to 1,700 miles. The longest recorded migration of a blue shark was from New York to Brazil ~ a journey of 3, 740 miles!s.
  • The blue shark is one a few species that migrate, or move, in groups called schools or shoals. These groups, when mixed, are all ordered by size or gender with every shark in its specific place. Sometimes, there are only all male or all female groups!

Bull Shark for Kids

The bull shark is an aggressive type of shark considered very dangerous to humans. Its scientific name, Carcharhinus leucas, is believed to have Greek origins translating to “sharpen” and “nose”. Depending on the location, the bull shark has many local names used in reference to it. Some examples of local names are: Nicaragua shark and Zambezi shark. Its nickname is “pit bull of the sea”.

Bull sharks are known to attack anything found in the water, so humans must beware when there is a bull shark in the area! Fortunately, most attacks on humans by bull sharks do not lead to death.

Habitat:

Bull sharks can survive in many different habitats, including warm, shallow waters, brackish (a mixture of salt and fresh) water, rivers and some lakes. Their tendecy to frequent shallow waters close to shorelines bring them into contact with humans on a consistent basis. Usually if a bull shark ventures up a river, it stays within 100 miles of the ocean!

Size/Color:

The average bull shark is about 7 to 8 feet long and weighs between 200 to 300 pounds. The largest verified bull shark was 12 feet long! The maximum weight it can reach is 500 pounds, about the weight of a full size piano.

Bull sharks are simply colored. They are gray on top, which fades to white below. This allows them to be camouflaged in the water.

Anatomy:

Bull sharks received their name from their appearance and behavior. Their blunt snouts and habit of head butting their prey before they attack are key characteristics that earned them their name.

Diet:

Bull sharks are not only predators, but also carnivores (meat eaters). They often feed using the “bump and bite technique”. The bull shark bumps the prey, possibly stunning or even killing it, allowing the bull shark to move in for the fatal bite.Their diet includesthe standard shark main dish of bony fishes, but will also eat dolphins, squid, sea birds, and even dogs! They are always on the hunt for their next meal.

Special Adaptations:

All sharks must keep salt in their bodies or will die. Most sharks accomplish this by living in saltwater full time. Bull sharks are unique in that they can live in both saltwater, fresh water, or a comibination of the two. Their kidneys help them retain, or keep, water in their bodies. They also have special glands near their tails, which allow them to keep salt in their body even when swimming in fresh water sources.

When threatened by its own predators, bull sharks will basically just throw up the food in its stomach. This is called regurgitation. This technique is used to distract its attacker, hopefully allowing the bull shark to get away.

  • Reproduction:

    Bull sharks are viviparous and deliver live babies called pups after about 10-12 months of carrying them. Bull sharks deliver anywhere from 1 to 15 pups at one time. Brackish water and even freshwater lakes often become bull shark nurseries! Scientists believe this is because many other sharks and other ocean predators cannot venture into the freshwater allowing the pups a better opportunity to mature into adulthood.

  • Conservation Status:

    Bull sharks are not a targeted species of shark by commercial fishing vessels, but often end up as bycatch. They are still prized because of their meat, skin, and oil. Bull sharks are often found in aquariums due to their ability to adapt to living in a tank environment.

    Currently, the bull shark is listed as Near Threatened. Its tendency to live in such close proximity to humans make it vulnerable to pollution and accidental netting.

 

Fact Attack:

  • The history of bull shark attacks on people have been around for centuries. In fact, a series of attacks credited to bull sharks in 1916 provided inspiration for the major motion movie, Jaws!
  • Bull sharks have the biggest bite force of all shark species ~ including its famous cousin, the great white shark! However, despite its incredible bite force, the great white shark, tiger shark, and Nile crocodile are known predators of bull sharks.
  • A bull shark is not a picky eater. Hippo remains have been found in bull shark stomachs!

Goblin Shark for Kids

The goblin shark is definitely not known for its beautiful appearance. In fact, it has the misfortune of being labelled as the “ugliest living shark”. Some say it looks more like a creature from outer space than a shark living on this planet. Its scientific name, Mitsukurinaowstoni, is in recognition of the two scientists who helped discover it in the late 19th century. It is also known as the elfin shark, gnome shark, and even the demon shark in different parts of the world.

Not a lot is known about the interaction between goblin sharks and people. The goblin shark is considered to be one of the rarest species, or type, of sharks. Although not considered dangerous to humans, the goblin shark could pose a threat due to its large size. At this time, scientists say humans do not have anything to fear from the goblin shark.

Habitat:

The goblin shark is a bottom dwelling shark, rarely seen on the surface or in shallow waters. However, its population is considered to have a wide range, or geographic area in which it is found.

Size/Color:

The goblin shark is a rather large species of shark, with average lengths reported as 8 to 12 feet. The largest recorded specimen was 12.6 feet and weighed 436 pounds, as heavy as taking 30 bowling balls and combining their weights!

The goblin shark’s appearance is quite unique. When a person thinks of a shark, usually the color that most often comes to mind is gray. However, the goblin shark is a pinkish-white color with blueish fins. There have even been documented sightings of goblin sharks that are bubble gum pink!

Anatomy:

Besides having rounded fins, the goblin sharks’ snout, or nose, is its most distinguishable feature. The long, flat nose cannot be missed!
The jaws of a goblin shark are also hard to miss and feature long, narrow teeth. The upper jaw has 26 pearly whites, while the lower jaw has 24 teeth.

Diet:

Since the goblin shark is so rare, there is still a lot scientists do not know about it. The shape of the teeth make scientists believe soft body prey, such as shrimp, octopus, fish, and squid, are primary food targets.

  • Special Adaptations:

    One of the most unique adaptations of the goblin shark is its ability to launch its jaw! The goblin shark is considered to be slow moving, but it makes up for its lack of speed with this special ability.

    If prey lurks just out of its reach and the goblin shark knows it is not fast enough to catch it, all it has to do is use its jaw as a type of grasping claw to grab the unsuspecting prey. Its top and bottom teeth are attached to special stretchy ligaments, or bands of tissue. When the goblin shark is ready to attack, it launches its jaws out to capture the prey. This is a jaw dropping ability ~ literally!

  • Reproduction:

    This is another area where facts are lacking. Goblin sharks are believed to be ovoviviparous with baby goblin sharks, or pups, starting life as eggs, hatching inside the mother, and then being born live. However, this theory has not been scientifically proven. Because no expectant female goblin shark has ever been captured, there is no data on how long babies are carried or how many pups are delivered in a litter.

  • Conservation Status:

    Goblin sharks are not fished for commercially. They are caught mistakenly by fisherman. Due to its bizarre appearance, there is also interest in putting them on exhibition, or display, at aquariums. So far, this desire has been unsuccessful.

    The goblin shark is considered to be a common type of shark, but is rarely seen. Because of the lack of information on its population size, it is currently listed as a species of Least Concern.

Fact Attack:

  • The goblin shark’s skin is practically translucent and allows some light to pass through it. Its pink color is due to the red blood vessels found underneath the skin!
  • Since the goblin shark spends so much time in the depths of the ocean, it is thought to have poor eyesight. To “see”, the goblin shark uses its snout, which possesses special electroreceptors called the ampullae of Lorenzini to detect electrical pulses put off by creatures. The goblin shark can detect when other sea creatures are about without actually seeing them!

Great White Shark for Kids

This fearsome creature is the largest predator in the ocean, which means it hunts other ocean creatures. Its scientific name, Carcharodon carcharias, is believed to have Greek origins translating to “sharpen”, “teeth”, and “type of shark”. Other less formal names are white shark, white pointer, and white death.

Unlike what you hear in the movies, great white sharks do not eat people. In fact, they use what is called a “test biting behavior”, which enables them to use taste buds in their mouth and throats to characterize edible and non-edible food before swallowing.

If a great white shark mistakes a human for prey and attacks, it will instantly retreat as soon as it figures out the human is not its typical dinner and never return to the scene of the attack to consume its supposed meal. Humans simply possess too many bones and not enough fat to entice a great white shark!

Habitat:

Great white sharks are found worldwide in cold to temperate waters. Their preferred temperature is between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They can swim on the surface, but also dive deep in ocean waters.

Size/Color:

An average great white shark weighs about 2,000 pounds and is roughly half the size of a school bus! Although they are massive, they are not the biggest shark. A whale shark wins the size contest.

Although white is the color used in its name, great white sharks are not even pure white in color. They are actually a dark shade of gray on top and white down below. This coloring allows them to blend in from above and below.

Anatomy:

The great white shark has a dorsal fin on its back and two fins on each of its sides. This is commonly referred to as a “torpedo” shape. They do not have a single bone in their body! Instead, their skeletons are formed completely of cartilage.

They are also known for their rows and rows of large, triangular teeth. The serrated edge makes their teeth ideal for taking out large chunks of meat from their prey. Sharks do not have to wait on chewing their food; instead, they swallow it whole! They also do not have to wait on the tooth fairy. When a tooth is lost, another one will take its place in the row within a few days!

Diet:

Great white sharks are carnivores, meaning they only eat meat. However, they are also opportunistic predators. Any marine, or ocean,animal such as a seal, sea lion, or even a sea turtle are not safe from a hungry great white. They even have been known to scavenge oncarrion, such as dead whale carcasses.

  • Special Adaptations:

    Great white sharks’ five senses are honed weapons allowing for efficient, specialized hunting. Two of their five senses, sight and smell, are specially adapted to their predator lifestyle.

    The eyes of the great white are laser sharp, and this is the main sense it uses when hunting prey, an animal hunted and killed by another. They are known as a visual predator, attacking prey in a swift, surprise strike from below when they see it outlined above them.

    Smell is their most acute sense. They can smell a single drop of blood floating in 25 gallons of water or a small amount of blood up to 3 miles away!

  • Reproduction:

    Great white sharks areovoviviparous, which means the pups are eggs that develop in the mother’s body and then hatch inside the mother. Soon after, the baby shark is born.Baby sharks are called pups.

    Great white shark pups are born live and instantly swim away from the mother to begin life on their own. Young sharks often feed on prey such as rays, bony fish, and even other sharks!

    Scientists believe female great white sharks starting breeding between 11 and 15 years of age and carry pups for anywhere from 12 to 18 months! In comparison, humans carry babies for 9 months. It is also believed female great whites only reproduce twice in a lifetime.

  • Conservation Status:

    The great white shark is known as the dominant predator in the ocean. Its only other known ocean predator is an orca whale, which will flip a shark over on its back causing it to drown.Instead of another ocean creature, great white sharks really have one predator to fear: humans!

    Many great white sharks die every year due to overfishing, illegal poaching, ocean pollution, and accidental trapping. Although not on the endangered list currently, the population is listed as Vulnerable. Some great white populations have decreased as much as 70% over the last few years.

Fact Attack:

  • When you look at a picture of a great white shark, you may notice it does not have an eyelid. This allows great white sharks to roll their eyeballs into their sockets while attacking prey. At the last moment before full attack, the shark becomes basically blind! This unique mechanism allows them to protect their eyes from injury during feeding.
  • Sharks must continuously swim or they drown. Swimming is to sharks what breathing is for humans. Orca whales use this to their advantage and sometimes flip the shark onto its back, leaving it unable to swim.

Hammerhead Shark for Kids

The hammerhead shark is an easily identifiable type of shark because of its oddly shaped head, but most people do not know there are actually ten identified species, or type, of hammerhead sharks. These are the: winghead shark, scalloped bonnethead, whitefin hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, scoophead, great hammerhead, bonnethead, smalleye hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, and Carolina hammerhead. There is a possible eleventh species discovered recently in 2017! These types of shark belong to the Sphyrnidae family, which translates from the Greek to mean “hammer”.

Out of the 10 known species, only 3 of them are considered aggressive. Hammerhead shark attacks on humans are rare, so the hammerheads are not considered to be dangerous to people. However, they should be treated with caution because they are defensive sharks and can attack!

Habitat:

The hammerhead shark can be found in all oceans of the world in both deep and shallow water.

Size/Color:

Size depends on the species, but the largest hammerhead sharks can reach up to 20 feet in length and weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
Hammerhead sharks vary in color on their dorsal, or upper, side from gray-brownish to green, but most are off white on their ventral, or under, side.

Anatomy:

As you might have predicted, the hammerhead shark is named for its uniquely shaped head, called a cephalofoil, is in the shape of a flattened hammer. The shape of the hammerhead shark’s head does more than make it stand out in a crowd. Scientists say the shape of the head allows the shark to search out prey on the ocean’s bottom, especially the sharks’ favorite snack ~ sting rays! The shark uses its head to locate its next meal like a human would use a metal detector to find buried treasure.

Differences in the cephalofoil shape are the best way to distinguish between each species of hammerhead shark. In fact, many of the names of hammerhead sharks include the unique shapes. For example, the scalloped hammerhead has distinct scalloped ridges on its head.

Diet:

The hammerhead shark is a predator to fear if you are a sea creature. They are carnivores and eat crabs, lobsters, squid, and other types of fish. Their favorite meal is a sting ray. Hammerheads use their heads not only to detect prey, but also as a weapon to capture it. They often use their heads to trap sting rays on the bottom of the ocean floor. When feasting on a sting ray, the hammerhead eats the spiny tail and all!

  • Special Adaptations:

    Hammerhead sharks not only have a special head allowing it to discover sting rays hidden in the ocean floor, their eyes also are special. Their eyes are widely set apart on their uniquely shaped head, allowing them to scan for prey quickly.

    Because of their eye placement, hammerhead sharks’ visual field is thought to be nearly 360 degrees (a complete circle) due to their ability to see above and below their bodies. The only place they cannot see is right in front of their head!

  • Reproduction:

    Hammerhead sharks are viviparous giving birth to live babies called pups. The female hammerheads give birth to litters from 6 to 50 pups at one time after carrying the babies for about 11 months. The hammerhead pup’s head is more rounded and much softer than the parents and grows into its distinct head shape as it matures.

  • Conservation Status:

    All of the species of hammerheads are considered to be experiencing a population decline due to overfishing. Two of the species, the great hammerhead and scalloped hammered, are listed as endangered. Seven of the remaining eight species are listed as Near Threatened, Vulnerable, or are yet to be assessed. There is one species, the bonnethead, listed as Least Concern, but scientists have recently discovered what is thought to be a new species similar to an existing bonnethead that may change this status in the near future.

Fact Attack:

  • Hammerhead sharks may be the answer for human skin disease. How, you may ask, is this possible? Hammerhead sharks are a rare marine, or ocean, animal that can get a suntan! They like to lie in the sun, but never get sunburned!
  • Hammerhead sharks live in groups called schools, but hunt alone at night. Each school usually has about 10-20 hammerheads, but there have been documented sightings of about 200 individuals in one school!

Lemon Shark for Kids

The lemon shark stands out in a sea full of sharks due to its yellow color. Its scientific name is Negaprionbrevirostris. This shark first appeared in the science world in 1868.

The lemon shark is considered to be a very low risk factor to humans for a couple of reasons. One reason is that the lemon shark prefers to remain in deep water where humans do not often venture. Although seen from the shorelines, there is not a lot of contact between lemon sharks and people. The other reason is that they often hunt at night. Although there have been a few reports of lemon shark attacks, the lemon shark is not considered dangerous to humans.

Habitat:

Most of these sharks are found in the Atlantic Ocean, but a small population size also lives in the Pacific Ocean. This species of shark likes shallow coastal waters and also occupies areas by coral reefs,a ridge of rock in the sea formed by the growth and deposit of coral.They have even been seen swimming by docks!

Size/Color:

A lemon shark is one of the larger species of sharks, reaching lengths of 7-10 feet and weighing up to 200 pounds.

Most lemon sharks, as their name implies, are yellow in color. However, their color can vary. There have been instances of gray lemon sharks! Their bellies are a light yellowish color or even white. The yellow coloring common to this species is a form of camouflage, helping them blend into the sandy floors of the ocean.

Anatomy:

The lemon shark has a stocky body with a flattened head and broad snout. Its teeth are curved, which prevent prey from slipping out. It also has two dorsal fins on its back that are often congruent, or the same size and shape.

Diet:

The lemon shark is a bottom dweller, commonly found on sandy or bottom floors of the ocean. Their diet reflects the type of prey found in this same type of habitat. They are carnivores, or meat eaters, and most commonly eat different types of fish and crustaceans, such as crabs and crayfish. After catching prey, the lemon shark will shake its head from side to side, ripping off pieces of meat to eat.

  • Special Adaptations:

    During the day, the lemon shark lies motionless on the ocean floor. Although the lemon shark may appear to be resting, it actually takes more energy to remain still than to be swimming. This is due to the extra work required to move water over the gills and help the shark breathe. Fortunately, the blood of lemon sharks is specially adapted to retain oxygen. This allows the shark to remain still for long periods of time. Scientists believe this allows small reef fish to remove parasites found on the body of lemon sharks.

    Another special adaptation a lemon shark involves its eyes. A lemon shark is believed to have very weak eyesight when compared to other sharks and often spend their time in murky water. They are effective hunters because they use electroreceptors that pick up electrical fields in the water. However, their eyes, like human eyes, contain both rods and cones, which allow them to see some colors and shapes.

  • Reproduction:

    Lemon sharks are viviparous and give birth to live, free swimming babies called pups. Female lemon sharks carry the pups from 10-12 months and deliver litters of anywhere from 4 to 17 at one time. Scientists believe female lemon sharks take a year off after giving birth before carrying another litter.

    Lemon sharks deliver in shallow water “nursery grounds” where the young lemon sharks remain until they are bigger. The juvenile lemon shark reaches adulthood around 10-15 years of age and will then enter deeper water.

  • Conservation Status:

    Lemon sharks are caught both commercially and recreationally. Their meat and fins are used for human consumption. They are also very popular as attractions in aquariums. Lemon sharks’ habitat is also threatened. For these reasons, the lemon shark is listed as a Near Threatened species.

Fact Attack:

  • Most of the sharks seen in aquariums are lemon sharks. Unlike most other species of sharks, the lemon shark is very tolerant of being held in captivity. For this reason, they are also one of the most studied shark species.

Mako Shark for Kids

Mako sharks are the cheetahs of the shark family. If there ever was a shark race, the mako would be the fastest every time. There are two existing types of mako sharks, the longfin and the shortfin, which make up the Isurus group of sharks. Isurus is Greek for equal tail, referring to the mako’slunate, or crescent shaped, tail fin. The long fin mako is incredibly rare, so this article will focus on the shortfin mako. Common names for the shortfin are makos, blue dynamites, and blue pointers. Its nickname is “peregrine falcon of the sea”.

Mako sharks are considered very dangerous to humans due to their size, speed, and aggressive behavior. Mako sharks are known to attack with their mouths wide open after swimming in a figure eight pattern. Many fishermen have been on the receiving end of a mako shark attack.

Habitat:

Mako sharks can survive in both cold and warm waters, so they can be found worldwide. They are primarily a pelagic, or open water, species of sharks. By using tagged mako sharks, scientists have proven they do migrate, or move, to warmer water during colder seasons.

Size/Color:

An average mako shark reaches about 10 feet (about half the length of a giraffe) and weighs 375 pounds (twice as heavy as an adult kangaroo). Female mako sharks grow considerably larger than males, reaching up to 12 feet and over 1,400 pounds.

The mako sharks’ coloration is often described as metallic blue on top, silver sides, and a white belly. The shortfin mako has a white snout area, while the longfin mako has a darker color around the snout. Individual differences of color are related to size. Larger mako sharks are darker colored.

Anatomy:

The mako shark is a cousin of the great white shark and has a similar streamlined, torpedo like profile. For identification purposes, many people just call it a smaller version of the great white. The teeth of a mako shark’s lower jaw can be seen even with its mouth closed.

Diet:

Mako sharks are carnivores, or meat eaters. Because of its speed, it can catch even the fastest of fish species. Tuna, mackerel, sword fish, and sea birds often find themselves on the mako’s menu. Interestingly enough, some scientists say the mako’s ability to swim so fast is due to its tail shape, which is very similar to a tuna’s tail.

  • Special Adaptations:

    Its speed is widely known as the mako’s greatest advantage. Mako sharks normally swim at around 35 miles per hour, which would be like a human driving a car in city limits. However, the maximum speed it can reach is 60 miles per hour! This is slightly less than what a cheetah can run on land.

    The mako shark is also known for its ability as an incredible acrobat. It routinely is seen jumping 20 to 30 feet above water, but these water jumps have continued to baffle scientists. Some theories are that the mako shark jumps out of the water to see prey better. It is not uncommon for mako sharks to literally jump into fishing boats!

  • Reproduction:

    Mako sharks are ovoviviparous, which means the baby sharks (called pups) start life as eggs before being hatched inside the mother’s body and then born live. Female mako sharks must carry the babies anywhere from 15 to 18 months before giving birth. Each litter can have between 4 and 18 pups. There is not a lot known about the reproductive process of mako sharks because scientists have never been able to study an expectant female mako shark.

  • Conservation Status:

    The mako shark population, unfortunately, is on a decline. This is largely due to overfishing. The shortfin mako is a prized gamefish for sportsmen due to the thrill of the catch, especially with its jumping ability. The demand for “sharkfin soup” is also a factor because the skin of a mako is considered quite tasty. Mako sharks are not always caught purposely, but are often netted by mistake by fisherman trying to catch other species of fish.

    Considering all of these factors, themako shark has been listed as Vulnerable and may be listed as endangered in the future.

Fact Attack:

  • “Mako” is a word that comes from the Maori language and literally means “shark”. The Maori are an indigenous, or native, people from New Zealand.
  • In 2017, a tagged mako shark made headlines when it went 13,000 miles (the same distance as halfway aroundEarth) in just 600 days! Scientists believe mako sharks must swim at least 35 miles daily just to find food!

Megamouth Shark for Kids

The megamouth shark is so rarely seen and so unusual that every sighting has been recorded in the scientific community. Scientifically known as Megachasmapelagios, themegamouth shark was only recently discovered in 1976. The scientific name is made up of Greek words meaning “great”, “cave”, and “of the sea”. In fact, the entire translation of the name is “huge yawning cavern of the open sea”. The megamouth shark’s nickname is “alien of the sea”.

Due to its more recent discovery and lack of sightings, a lot of facts are yet to be known about megamouth shark. Megamouth is considered to be less active than most sharks and possibly even a poor swimmer. It is believed to be harmless to humans.

Habitat:

Scientists are still gathering data about the distribution of the megamouth. Sightings have been confirmed in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and this species is believed to be wide ranging. Scientists have discovered megamouth sharks spend the day in the deep depths of the ocean, but return to more shallow depths at night. This behavior is called “vertical migration”.

Size/Color:

Megamouth sharks can grow to reach 17 feet or greater, and the heaviest recorded weight was around 2,000 pounds!

Megamouth sharks are dark grayish brown on their dorsal side with ventral colors of light gray to white. Both male and female megamouth sharks have white bands on their snouts, which scientists believe could be a recognition tool between individuals of the species.

Anatomy:

The megamouth shark’s anatomy is very interesting since it is so different than other species of sharks. It has a soft body and fins, an unequal tail, and an overall weak body. Interestingly enough, the slow megamouth shark belongs to the same family as the fastest shark ~ the shortfin mako shark!

As its common name hints, the megamouth shark has an oversized mouth. Its head is also large enough to look out of proportion to its body. However, a huge mouth does not mean huge teeth. Megamouth sharks have very small teeth…and a lot of them! They have about 50 rows of teeth, but only 3 rows are considered functional, or useful.

Diet:

Despite its size, the megamouth shark is not to be feared by humans. It joins the basking shark and the whale shark as one of three filter feeders in the shark family. Megamouth shark puts its giant mouth to use by holding it open wide and ingesting, or swallowing, krill and plankton along with water. After gathering enough prey, the mouth will then close and a special filtering process enables the megamouth shark to expel, or force out, the water using its gills. Scientists have not yet been able to study a live specimen, or example of its species, to confirm their thoughts about the feeding process.

  • Special Adaptations:

    Besides its large size, the megamouth shark possesses more interesting features. Its upper jaw has two sheets of silvery tissue. Scientists have no clue what this reflective tissue might be used for!

  • Reproduction:

    As many other areas of megamouth sharks, little is known about the reproductive process of megamouth sharks. They are believed to be ovoviviparous, with the babies, called pups, starting life out as an egg, being hatched inside the mother, and then being born live. There is no information currently available about size of litter or how long pups are carried by females.

  • Conservation Status:

    The megamouth shark is believed to be a wide ranging shark, although it is not often seen. However, in recent years, it has become increasingly taken as bycatch by commercial fishermen. Because of these reasons, it is currently listed as a species of Least Concern.

    Megamouth sharks are probably encountered on a more frequent basis than believed, but may not be reported. Scientists have been able to tag megamouth sharks and are hopeful more information will be gathered in the near future.

Fact Attack:

  • Many specimens of megamouth sharks have been found washed up on the beaches!
  • There are some scientists who believe the lower jaw of megamouth may exhibit bioluminescence, or the production of light by living things such as fireflies, to attract prey. There has been no proof backing up this thought, but scientists are still studying the possibility.

Prehistoric Sharks for Kids

Sharks have been in the world since before the time of dinosaurs. Many facts are known and recorded about modern-day sharks, but scientists also study the sharks that existed millions of years ago. Fossils, remains of plants or animals that lived long ago, have taught scientists many things about the existence of prehistoric sharks, those who existed before written records.

However, prehistoric sharks pose a problem for scientists trying to study them and make predictions about their size, what they ate, and other important facts. Sharks do not have skeletons of bone. Instead, cartilage makes up the body structure of sharks. Usually, fossils contain remnants of bone or other hard material. Any fossil record found of prehistoric sharks is a coincidence~ some may call it luck!

When the shark died, it would land on rocks in the ocean leaving behind an impression. Fossilized shark teeth have also been extremely important in learning about prehistoric sharks. These types of fossils have been invaluable in helping scientists learn about prehistoric sharks.

All prehistoric sharks, except two, are now extinct, or no longer in existence. The two prehistoric sharks currently living are the goblin shark and the frilled shark. Both of these species of sharks can trace their ancestry back for millions of years ~ true living fossils!

Incredibly, just as modern-day shark species are still being discovered, so are prehistoric shark species. As recently as 2015, a new species called Pseudomegachasma was discovered by scientists. This shark was a vegetarian and possessed the same type of teeth as megamouth shark!

The world of prehistoric sharks offers some of the most extreme shark species. Here is a closer look at 4 of the most unique prehistoric sharks: Megalodon,Stethacanthus, Xenacanthus, and Edestus.

Megalodon

Megaladon is perhaps the most famous prehistoric shark and has found a place in modern-day movies and books. Few facts are known about this shark because the only fossil record of this species found and studied has been teeth and a few vertebrae, or small bones forming the backbone.

Scientists believe Megalodon is the largest shark to have ever lived, reaching lengths of 59 feet or greater and weighing 50-70 tons. This is three times as big as a great white shark! Its mouth alone was 7 foot wide, large enough for a very tall human to stand in it upright.

Megalodons were huge predators, and fossilized teeth have been found that were 7 inches long! They were so large that they feasted on huge prey like whales, seals, sea lions, and walruses.

Stethacanthus

Stethacanthus is a little known prehistoric shark species, but it is definitely one weird fish! It was only about 2 feet long. Instead of a typical dorsal, or back, fin, it had a fin shaped like an ironing board. If the fin’s shape was not odd enough, it also featureddenticles, tooth like scales, on top of it! Its forehead also had these spikes on it. Scientists believe this oddly shaped fin and scaly forehead might be visually important in order to attract a mate, and it is believed that only males possessed this feature!

However, scientists still do not agree about exactly what the fin was used for.

Xenacanthus

Xenacanthus is a type of prehistoric shark believed to have been able to live in freshwater sources. Its body shape is very eel like with a dorsal fin running the entire length of its body. What set Xenacanthus apart from other prehistoric sharks is the spine located on the back of its head.

Scientists believe this spine served as protection against large predators. Some researchers even hypothesize the spine could be poisonous, similar to a modern-day sting ray’s spine.

Edestus

This prehistoric shark is also known as the “scissor toothed shark”, so obviously its unique feature must deal with its teeth. Modern-day sharks lose and grow back teeth continuously, but this was not the case with Edestus. In fact, this shark did not lose its worn teeth at all, but still grew new teeth. The result of this was a bizarre set of teeth with the old teeth pushed forward out of the mouth!
This shark looked like it had multiple sets of sharp scissor teeth. Scientists are not sure exactly what type of prey Edestus ate or even exactly how the sharp teeth were used.

Tiger Shark for Kids

The tiger shark is considered the most dangerous tropical shark. It is second only to the great white shark on the overall danger scale. Its scientific name, Galeocerdo cuvier, is believed to have Greek and Latin origins translating to “Aristotle’s shark”, “cunning” and “the fox”. The tiger shark is commonly known as the sea tiger, but some people refer to it as the man-eater shark.

Just like its jungle counterpart, tiger sharks are considered dangerous to humans. They are inquisitive and aggressive, which can be a deadly combination when coming into close contact with humans. Unlike the great white shark, the tiger shark will eat humans after an attack.

Habitat:

Tiger sharks are found worldwide in warm, tropical and subtropical waters. They often swim in the deep, but will come up to the shallows when hunting. This species is considered nocturnal, mostly active at night.

Size/Color:

Tiger sharks are large sharks, but not quite as big as a great white shark. A typical tiger shark is between 10 and 14 feet in length, but the longest can be up to 20 feet. They can weigh up to 1,400 pounds, about as heavy as a fully grown cow!

Tiger shark bodies are brownish-gray, but it is their stripes that make their coloring unique. As their name indicates tiger sharks have tiger-like stripes that are black. These markings are very visible when they are juveniles, or young, but fade, becoming almost invisible, as the shark ages. Tiger shark pups are not born striped, but are born spotted! The spots become stripes as the tiger shark matures.

Anatomy:

Tiger sharks are easily recognizable because of their blunt snouts. Their jaws are powerful enough to crack open the shells of sea turtles, so as you can imagine their bite force is immense! Their large teeth have a distinct shape with a curved cusp(end) and edges that are finely serrated.

Diet:

Tiger sharks are known carnivores (meat eaters), but will eat anything it can fit in its mouth. Some scientists refer to them as generalist predators. They are definitely not picky eaters! Tiger sharks have the nickname of “garbage cans of the sea” because they will eat anything they can find! Fish, other sharks, seals, lobster, crabs, and other ocean life are their primary targets, but tiger shark stomach content analysis has also revealed unusual objects such as license plates and old tires!

  • Special Adaptations:

    As with other species of sharks, tiger sharks are dependent upon their senses to survive and catch their prey. A tiger shark has extremely good eyesight. It has a special gill slit, which lets oxygen flow directly to the brain and eyes. To protect their incredible eyes, tiger sharks possess a special “third eyelid”. This special membrane closes over the eyes to protect them when the shark attacks its prey.

    Tiger sharks use their blunt noses to detect prey. They can smell a possible meal within 100 yards! For a human, that would be like smelling a hot dog all the way from one end of a football field to the other!

  • Reproduction:

    Tiger sharks are ovoviviparous, so the baby tiger sharks form as eggs before being born. Female tiger sharks carry the babies for at least 9 months, with some scientists believing this range can be between 14-16 months. Like other sharks, baby tiger sharks are called pups.

    Females give birth to a large litter, anywhere from 10-80 pups! The newborn tiger sharks are 2-3 feet long. The mother will not have another litter for 3 more years.

  • Conservation Status:

    Tiger sharks are fished for both commercially and for sport. Their livers are highly sought after because of the amount of Vitamin A, an essential vitamin for eye health, contained in the organ. It is reprocessed for human use.

    Since tiger sharks do not reproduce at a fast rate and because of the fishing pressure placed on the population, the tiger shark is listed as Near Threatened.

Fact Attack:

  • Tiger sharks are species that migrate, which means they move from one region to another usually following the seasons. Each June, tiger sharks can be found off the coast of Hawaii where they go to feed on albatross. Studies of movement patterns revealed their annual migrations can take them all the way across the Atlantic Ocean!
  • Since tiger sharks literally eat garbage, sometimes they get an upset stomach. In order to soothe their stomach, they can turn it inside out to eject non edible objects!
  • One of the weirdest things ever found in a tiger shark stomach was a chicken coop…complete with chickens!

Whale Shark for Kids

The whale shark is the largest shark roaming the ocean! Its scientific name, Rhincodon typus, is believed to have Greek origins translating to “rasp” and “tooth”. This shark received its name due to its size.

Despite its massive size, the whale shark does not pose a threat to humans and does not even register on the danger scale to humans. They truly can be described as the “gentle giants” of the ocean. It is not uncommon for a whale shark to let scuba divers hitch a ride by grabbing onto their fins!

There have been reports of whale sharks purposely bumping smaller fishing boats, but they are often the ones receiving accidental bumps from shipping vessels since they spend so much time at the surface of the water.

Habitat:

Whale sharks are found in the warm waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They are often found in deep and shallow waters of 70-86 degrees Fahrenheit, which are known to have high populations of microscopic organisms.

Size/Color:

The whale shark’s enormous size definitely puts it into a class above the rest of the sharks. Their mouth alone is about 5 feet wide. Some whale sharks have been recorded at around 40 feet (as long as two giraffes standing on top of each other). It is difficult to determine precisely how much they weigh because scales that massive are hard to find, but some estimates put the heaviest at around 65,000 pounds!

Whale sharks stand out not only for their massive size, but also their coloring. They are bluish-gray or brown-black on top, white underneath on their stomachs, and have white strips and dots on their sides and back. Each whale shark has a unique color combination of stripes and spots, similar to human fingerprints, which are used to identify individuals.

Anatomy:

The whale shark has a flat head and blunt snout. Their body is very streamlined and ends with a two lobed caudal fin (tail fin).

Although it possesses a multitude of teeth, no one really knows what they are used for since it appears they are not used to eat their food.

Diet:

Whale sharks have a unique way of consuming their food, which consists primarily of plankton, schooling fish, and small crustaceans. They feed by opening their mouths, unlatching their jaws, and sucking in the water in its path. After it sucks in the water, it releases the water from its gills.

Even the most microscopic (tiny) organism is trapped in their specialized filtration system leaving only water to escape out, while the food organisms remain. There are only two other known type of sharks that filter feed as the whale shark does.

  • Special Adaptations:

    Whale sharks are massive, but they do not have large eyes to compensate for their size. Their two eyes are located behind their jaws, but their mouth is often open gulping down dinner. This, as you can imagine, makes it hard for the whale shark to see.

    Whale sharks have special sensors running up and down their body allowing them to have additional “sight” besides their eyes. These sensors serve as what humans would think of as a backup camera! Although they cannot see from behind, they can feel the pressure of anything back there.

  • Reproduction:

    Whale sharks are ovoviviparous. Babies develop as eggs before being born live. Babies, called pups, are between 20 and 25 inches at birth. Female whale sharks give birth beginning at about age 25 and have about 300 babies at a time.

  • Conservation Status:

    Unfortunately, the whale shark population is on the decline due to fishing, entrapment in fishing nets, and boat collisions. Whale sharks are considered extremely valuable to fishermen due to their large size and many uses. In 2016, they were put on the endangered species list.

Fact Attack:

  • Although whale sharks do not use their teeth to eat, they do have a lot of them. Most shark species only have 20 to 30 rows of teeth, but the whale shark has 300 rows for a grand total of around 3,000 teeth!
  • Whale sharks are very slow swimmers, averaging between 3 to 5 miles per hour.
  • One of the weirdest things ever found in a tiger shark stomach was a chicken coop…complete with chickens!

Questions and Answers about Sharks

Are sharks fish?

Yes! Sharks are classified as fish since they live in the water and use gills to breathe.

How long have sharks existed?

Sharks are believed to be older than dinosaurs! In their time of long existence, sharks have not changed very much!

Do sharks have bones?

Sharks are boneless. Instead, they are made of cartilage. Human ears, as well as the tip of a human nose, are composed completely of cartilage.

Can sharks live in freshwater?

When you hear the word shark, most people automatically think of the ocean. The ocean is completely full of salt water. However, some sharks can live in freshwater. The answer to this question depends on the species of sharks. Some sharks can live only in salt water, other can live in brackish water (a mixture of salt and fresh water), and others can live in both. The bull shark is the most well-known shark that can live in freshwater and salt water.

How many species of sharks are there?

Currently, there are more than 400 different species of sharks. However, the ocean is considered to be one of the last frontiers, and new species are expected to be uncovered as exploration of ocean depths continues.

How do sharks communicate with each other?

Sharks have extraordinary senses, but they themselves do not possess the sense of sound. Sharks, of course, cannot talk. However, they do communicate with each other through body language.Scientists have discovered great white sharks are known to use a behavior called gaping (opening their jaws) to communicate. Other shark species may use sight and touch to talk to their fellow sharks.

How do sharks breathe?

Since sharks are fish, they breathe using gills (small slit openings found on the side of their necks). Most sharks must continuously swim in order for water to pass over the gills, which results in oxygen. Some sharks have developed strong neck muscles that pump water over the gills.

Do sharks sleep?

This is a question that causes a lot of discussion with scientists. Most sharks have to swim in order to breathe. Other sharks possess special mechanisms allow for them to rest for longer periods of time. Taking all of this into account, most scientists agree sharks do not sleep in the sense that humans do. Instead, they have periods of rest and action. Some species of sharks can only rest for just a few moments at a time, and others can do it for an extended period.

What does a shark’s skin feel like?

A shark’s skin is not as smooth as it may appear to be. Shark skin is covered with placoid scales, tiny structures resembling teeth. These scales reduce friction when the shark is swimming. However, the scales also result in making the skin feel like rough sandpaper!

How many teeth do sharks have?

The number of teeth a shark has depends on the species. The largest amount of teeth is probably found in the mouth of a whale shark, which possesses over 3,000 pearly whites! Shark teeth are not as strong as human teeth and fall out constantly. Lucky for a shark, lost teeth can grow back in as little as one day!

What is the largest and smallest shark species?

The largest species of shark is the whale shark with an average length of around 42 feet. The smallest species of shark is the dwarf lantern shark with an average length of 6 inches. The dwarf lantern shark can fit in a human hand. To put this into perspective, it would take almost 100 dwarf lantern sharks to make one average whale shark ~ 92 to be exact!

What are the chances of being attacked by a shark?

Shark attacks have been receiving a lot of news coverage in the last few years. However, the chances of being attacked by a shark are not very high. You are much more likely to be struck by lightning than be attacked by a shark. People who regularly participate in marine, or ocean, activities have a slim chance of a shark encounter, but most beachgoers do not let this stop them from hitting the waves.

How long do sharks live?

This depends on the species of shark. Some species live as little as 16 years, while others, such as the whale shark, may live over 100 years!