Cookiecutter Shark

Last updated: July 14, 2021
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

The cookiecutter shark takes its name because it leaves a cookie-shaped bite hole in its prey.



Cookiecutter Shark Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Chondrichthyes
Order
Squaliformes
Family
Dalatiidae
Genus
Isistius

Cookiecutter Shark Conservation Status

Cookiecutter Shark Locations

Cookiecutter Shark Locations

Cookiecutter Shark Facts

Prey
large squid, gonostomatids, crustaceans
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
The cookiecutter shark takes its name because it leaves a cookie-shaped bite hole in its prey.
Estimated Population Size
Unknown
Biggest Threat
Ocean pollution
Most Distinctive Feature
Cookiecutter sharks glow
Other Name(s)
Cigar shark
Water Type
  • Salt
Habitat
Ocean
Predators
large sharks and bony fish
Diet
Carnivore
Favorite Food
Marlin, tuna, other sharks, stingrays, seals and whales
Type
Dalatiidae
Common Name
Cigar shark
Number Of Species
2

Cookiecutter Shark Physical Characteristics

Colour
  • Brown
Skin Type
Rough
Lifespan
Up to 25 years
Length
14-22 inches

Cookiecutter Shark Images

Click through all of our Cookiecutter Shark images in the gallery.

View all of the Cookiecutter Shark images!



Cookiecutter sharks are squaliform sharks.

Squaliform sharks have two dorsal fins. Squaliform sharks usually have five to seven gill slits on their sides. They also typically do not have anal fins.

5 Incredible Cookiecutter Shark Facts

  • These sharks have the largest teeth of any shark species at any location. Like all sharks, it loses its teeth and grows new ones throughout its life.
  • The liver accounts for 35% of the sharks’ weight. The liver contains low-density lipids that help this shark float.
  • The underside of the shark is covered in photophores that give this shark an eerie green glow. The glow lasts for up to 3 hours after the shark dies..
  • These sharks are parasitic. They often bite out a cookie-shaped hole in a much larger fish.
  • These sharks have bitten through submarines. They have bitten soft areas, like electrical cables and rubber sonar dome.

Cookiecutter Shark Classification and Scientific Name

The scientific name of the cookiecutter shark is Isistius brasiliensis. There are two species of cookiecutter sharks. The Isistius brasiliensis is called the cookiecutter shark while the Isistius plutodus is called the large cookiecutter shark. They are members of the Isistius genus.

All of these sharks are members of the Dalatiidae family. This family is more commonly referred to as the kitefin shark family. They are also members of the Squaliformes includes over 125 fish species. Like other fish with a spine primarily made of cartilage, they are part of the Chondrichthyes order. They belong to the Chordate phylum order and the Animalia kingdom.

Cookiecutter Shark Species

There are two species of these sharks. There have been only about 10 largetooth cookiecutter sharks caught, so very little is known about them.

Scientists believe that the largetooth cookiecutter shark has larger teeth, especially on the lower jaw, than the cookiecutter shark. They also think that the largetooth shark is a weaker swimmer than the cookiecutter shark. They both live in diverse locations globally.


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These sharks are a light brown. It has a long slender shape, like a cigar, which is why it is often called the cigar shark. This shark has a short, blunt snout and large eyes. It has two spineless dorsal fins and a large caudal fin.

Covering the sharks underside are photophores. This makes the fish appear to glow when viewed from the bottom. It will continue to glow for about 3 hours after the shark is dead.

Female sharks are larger than males in size. The average male is 14-inches long while the average female is 16-inches long.

The underside of a Cookiecutter Shark, showing its teeth.
The underside of a Cookiecutter Shark, showing its teeth.

Cookiecutter Shark Distribution, Population, and Habitat

These sharks are found throughout the world. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists this species as a species of least concern. There are no accurate numbers of how many of these sharks are in locations around the world.

Cookiecutter Shark Predators and Prey

Cookiecutters prey on almost any marine living creatures. They close their suctorial lips against the prey, kind of like kissing it. Then, it uses its upper pointed teeth and powerful jaws to grip the prey better. Finally, it uses its upper teeth and jaws to take a chunk out of the animal. Most bites from the teeth and jaws measure about 2-inches across and 2.75-inches tall.

Many different animals have been spotted with this shark marks on their bodies, including porpoises, dolphins, whales, seals, sharks, stingrays, and bony fish.

Additionally, these sharks have eaten squid as big as themselves. They swallow these animals whole.

Cookiecutter Shark Reproduction and Lifespan

Scientists are not sure how long the gestation period is in these sharks. A shark baby is called a pup. They live inside the mother’s uterus. Six-to-12 pups are born as a baby at the same time, with each one measuring between 5.5-and-5.9 inches long when they are born. Each baby is in a sizable sac, so scientists theorize that this shark has a long gestation period.

Even though they may end up with a piece of their bodies missing, some animals eat these sharks. These animals include bony fish and sharks that are larger than them.

Cookiecutter Shark in Fishing and Cooking

Except for a few caught accidentally, these sharks are not targeted by recreational or commercial anglers.

Cookiecutter Shark Population

No one has an accurate count of the number of these sharks.

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Cookiecutter Shark FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What Is a Cookiecutter Shark?

A cookiecutter shark is a shark that looks like a cigar that is about 14-22 inches long. These sharks are unique because they bite marine life that is much bigger than themselves. When they bite, they leave a distinctive cookie-cutter shape.

Are Cookiecutter Sharks Dangerous?

There have been very few cookiecutter shark attacks on humans. Part of the reason for the lack of attacks is that they spend most of their day about 2.3 miles under the ocean’s floor.

Cookiecutter sharks can be dangerous to other items. For example, they have been known to attack nuclear submarines. In that case, they tried to eat rubber hosing and cords.

Cookiecutter sharks can also be dangerous to other marine life. They are parasite sharks that use their strong mouths and jaws to attach themselves to even bigger animals than themselves. Then, they use their teeth to tear off pieces. The result is a hole that looks like it has been cut with a cookie-cutter.

Do Cookiecutter Sharks Eat Their own Teeth?

Yes, cookiecutter sharks eat their teeth. About 27 of the teeth come out as a unit regularly. Then, the shark swallows them. Some scientists believe that the shark swallows its teeth for the calcium in them because the water where they live may be poor in nutrients.

The cookiecutter shark then regrows their teeth, and the process happens all over again.

Can a Cookiecutter Shark Bite Through a Submarine?

No, cookiecutter sharks cannot bite through the shell of a submarine. They can harm submarines in other ways. For instance, they have been reported eating rubber and other soft materials outside the submarine.

What Eats a Cookiecutter Shark?

Although they may get bitten in the process, larger sharks and large bony fish eat cookiecutter sharks.

What Does a Cookiecutter Shark Look Like?

The cookiecutter shark has a cigar shape. Most of their bodies are brown, but they have a distinct vertical stripe that is a lighter brown. Additionally, there is lighter brown around their gill area.

The ventral area of this shark is covered with photophores that produce a greenish glow on the shark’s belly. Pale margins are found on all the fins, except the caudal fin. This fin has a dark tip.

How big Is a Cookiecutter Shark?

A cookiecutter shark grows to be between 14-and-22-inches long. Females are about 20% bigger than males.

Sources
  1. Fishbase, Available here: http://www.fishbase.us/summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=696&AT=Ciookie%20cutter%20shark
  2. We Love Sharks, Available here: https://welovesharks.club/species-profile-the-cookiecutter-shark/
  3. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isistius
  4. Mentalfloss, Available here: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/57124/14-facts-about-cookiecutter-shark
  5. Wonderopolis, Available here: https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-dangerous-is-the-cookiecutter-shark
  6. Florida Museum, Available here: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/isistius-brasiliensis/
  7. Shark Keeper, Available here: http://sharkkeeper.com/cookiecutter-shark-facts-amazing-features/#Threats_and_Conservation

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