Sharks are equal parts terrifying, mysterious and incredible. With around 400 shark species existing in the world today, each has its own aesthetic, hunting techniques and temperament. Here are seven of the world’s coolest shark species:
Growing to more than 40 feet in length, whale sharks are the largest fish species in the world. Despite their size, whale sharks prefer to feed on plankton, not people. Whale sharks also catch small fish and other animals by swimming with their mouth wide open. In a mechanism called “cross-flow filtration,” the shark uses its jaws to filter what enters into its mouth.
Whale sharks prefer warm water and can be found in all of the tropical seas, though they are considered a threatened, diminishing species. Fishers and swimmers have been known to catch a ride on these monstrous but docile creatures. Further demonstrating their innocuous nature, photographers Shawn Heinrichs and Kristian Schmidt recently had models swim and pose by the whale sharks for a photo series.
The mako shark, also called shortfin mako shark or blue pointer, is the fastest of all shark species, and can reach an average speed of 22 mph, though scientists have found one particularly spry specimen traveling at an astonishing 43 mph. These sharks can jump 20 feet into the air, and prey mainly on fish and cetaceans.
Mako sharks are active and aggressive, and have been known to attack humans. Like other sharks, their numbers are dwindling due to overzealous fishing practices. Mako sharks, in particular, are considered an excellent game fish due to their agility and strength.
Check out this incredible footage of a mako shark attaching a marlin:
Great White Shark
The great white shark is probably the most well-known shark species, and this sharp-toothed stunner has certainly earned its reputation. Great whites are the largest predatory fish on the planet. They can grow up to 20 feet long, weigh more than 5,000 pounds, and swim at speeds of 15 miles per hour.
Great white sharks detect prey with their incredibly keen sense of smell, picking up potential meals as far as three miles away. Like whales, great whites have been known to breach the water, especially during an attack. To kill their prey, they bite down with around 300 saw-like teeth arranged in multiple rows along their mouths. Great white sharks account for about 1/3 to ½ of reported shark attacks each year.
The thresher or “thrasher” shark can be distinguished by its massive, rainbow-shaped tail that accounts for about 33% of the animal’s weight. The thresher shark is a solitary animal that hunts by swirling schools of fish into mini whirlpools and then swimming into them. Thresher sharks will also thrust their tail at high speeds (30 miles per hours on average) and maiming, stunning or even killing their prey. They are the only shark species that uses their tail while hunting.
Here’s a video of the thrasher shark using its tail to hunt a group of sardines:
The frilled shark belongs to a primitive shark species that has changed little over the years, prompting many to call it a “living fossil”. Because of its peculiar shape, many refer to the shark as an eel or sea snake. The frilled shark has around 300 small, razor-sharp teeth organized into 25 rows, and jaws that end at the back of the fish’s head.
The frilled shark gets its name from the six frilled gills on its head. Sightings of the species are rare, as they usually reside in dark, deep parts of the ocean. In 2007, anglers caught a frilled shark off the coast of Japan, and quickly moved the animal to a nearby marine park. Sadly, it died hours after being removed from the ocean.
The Coolest Sharks: Hammerhead
While hammerhead sharks get their name from their odd, hammer-shaped heads, this shape also allows them to be better hunters, as their far-spaced eye better equip them to scan the ocean for food. Hammerheads can sense electrical fields created by prey, which helps them locate stingrays, their preferred food source, which often lie buried under the sand.
There are nine hammerhead species, the largest of which is known to grow about 20 feet long. Hammerheads rarely attack humans, and many people consider the smaller hammerhead species relatively tame. Due to their distinct shape, hammerheads are easily identifiable, and are often seen in large groups during summer migration, when the sharks seek cooler water.
The prehistoric Megalodon shark was the biggest marine creature in the history of the world. With seven-inch long teeth and a bite force of 10.8 to 18.2 tons, this shark was a serious predator. Since only a few scattered bones of the Megalodon remain, scientists can’t agree on the animal’s size, though the consensus is that the huge animal could have grown to be 55 to 60 feet long and weighed nearly 100 tons.
The Megalodon fed on whales, dolphins and giant turtles, and its body was designed to bite into tough cartilage instead of soft tissue. While the great white shark is considered the Megalodon’s closest living relative, the two differ in many ways. Unlike most sharks, the Megalodon lived all over the world. Though most believe that the Megalodon went extinct without explanation, some still believe that the giant fish still lurks in deep waters.
Via All That Is Interesting: The Coolest Sharks In The World