The best thing about the hot summer months and living in the South is enjoying the beautiful Gulf beaches. In Alabama, there are some excellent beaches with soft white sand and deep blue waters. But did you know that sharks are common in the Gulf?
In the last decade, as more swimmers dive into the water, the shark population has also increased! Keep reading to learn about 7 common sharks found off Alabama beaches.
Common Sharks Found Off Alabama Beaches
1. Tiger Shark
Tiger sharks are among the most common sharks you can find along Alabama beaches. In the last few years, these sharks have been spotted more and more. They are large predators with unmistakable features like their ‘tiger’ striped skin. You can sometimes even find them in shallow warm waters, looking for their next meal.
Not a lot of information is known about the habitat of these migratory sharks because of their rapid movement. However, they are typically 10 to 14 inches long and have serrated edges on each tooth, which help them consume prey like turtles.
Unlike other fish, tiger sharks are not picky eaters. In fact, scientists have found plastic, tires, and even license plates in their stomachs. While tiger sharks are covered in stripes, they are mainly deep gray, perfect for blending into the murky water.
2. Hammerhead Shark
Can you imagine being in the water with massive hammerhead sharks? These sharks are giants and frequently travel throughout tropical waters. While they are more common near Florida, you can still see hammerheads near Alabama beaches. An adult hammerhead is about 13 to 20 feet long and weighs an average of 1,000 pounds.
Sharks have unique ways of reproducing. Hammerheads are actually among the few sharks in the world that gives birth to live baby hammerhead sharks. A hammerhead female can carry anywhere from 2 to 50 pups (shark babies) during pregnancy.
Hammerhead sharks prefer staying in deeper waters and sandbars. Their diet mainly consists of stingrays, crabs, and squids. Rarely do hammerhead sharks get close to the coast unless they are chasing a fast stingray or large schools of fish.
3. Bull Shark
Every year, the news seems to report new bull shark activities near Alabama. While most people may think that Great White sharks are the most ferocious sharks in the water, bull sharks have stronger bites, but they are smaller. Most bull sharks weigh between 200 and 500 pounds.
Bull sharks are also the most likely to attack humans in the water, but it has nothing to do with how we taste. Actually, bull sharks love swimming in warm and coastal waters. The more people swimming in the water, the warmer the water is, attracting bull sharks.
Interestingly, bull shark females grow larger than males bull sharks. They are 7 to 11.5 feet long. These aggressive sharks also have blunt noses and a distinct appearance. Bull sharks are also one of the few sharks that can swim in both freshwater and saltwater. They transition from ocean to rivers in just seconds!
4. Finetooth Shark
These warm, loving sharks are known for calling the Gulf coast in Alabama beaches their home. Typically, you can find them in shallow waters like coastal waters, bays, and estuaries. Interestingly, during the summer months, finetooth sharks feast in sandbars. When the weather gets colder, they prefer traveling in deeper waters.
Finetooth sharks give birth live to about 1-6 pups. While Finetooth sharks grow between 5 and 6 feet long as adults, babies are born at an astonishing 2 feet long! They look similar to spinner sharks, which share the same waters. They also have tiny clear teeth perfect for quickly catching menhaden and mullet fish.
Furthermore, they also easily get caught in fishing nets throughout the Atlantic Ocean because of their small size. Some fishermen throw back finetooth sharks into the water, while others cook and eat the meat. Something noticeable about these sharks is their large eyes and flat face.
5. Atlantic Sharpnose Shark
Have you ever seen Atlantic sharpnose sharks? They are not common and barely look like typical sharks. Actually, their noses or ‘snouts’ are long, and they only grow up to 2-3 feet long. While they are more common in New England waters, you can still see them near Alabama beaches.
Atlantic sharpnose sharks are also one of the few sharks that fishermen can fish with limited regulations. Rarely will Atlantic sharpnose sharks attack large mammals or humans because of their size. They have 24 to 26 rows of sharp and triangular teeth. Even when an Atlantic sharpnose shark bites a human, it is usually non-fatal.
Atlantic sharpnose sharks also have large nostrils that are far apart. As young pups and juveniles, they are small enough that you can hold them in one hand. You can also find Atlantic sharpnose sharks on other state beaches like Mississippi and Florida.
6. Blacktip Shark
Blacktip sharks are part of the Carcharhinidae family, are aggressive predators, and are not afraid to attack mammals and large fish. They live throughout the world but prefer warmer coastal waters in the Caribbean and the Gulf. While they are aggressive, these sharks are not the largest. They grow up to 6 feet long.
Unlike other species of sharks, blacktip sharks produce 4 to 11 pups every two years. They give birth live and do not care for the pups after they are born. Blacktip sharks have large and jagged teeth, which they use to hunt bony sharks. These medium-sized sharks also consume stingrays and shrimp. While scientists are still trying to study these mysterious fish, the longest a recorded blacktip shark has lived was 15.5 years.
Blacktip female sharks are also larger than blacktip male sharks, likely because they carry live pups. Unless they are hunting or afraid, Blacktip sharks stay away from humans.
7. Spinner Shark
Just like the shark’s name suggests, the spinner shark is named that because it leaps out of the water at incredible heights and spins at least three times. It is the only shark that makes this move, and it still baffles scientists and researchers. It is an active predator but rarely goes near humans and other large mammals.
Spinner sharks live in both coastal and open deep waters, depending on the time of year and their hunting patterns. Sharks don’t stay long in one place because they prefer to hunt for their prey. While some spinner sharks have black or gray tips on their fins, they are not blacktip sharks. Sadly, they are a threatened species as they are frequently caught by commercial fishers both accidentally and on purpose.
Recreational fishers look for spinner sharks because they are hard to catch and pose a challenge. Some people even highly value these sharks because their meat and liver are delicious.
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