There are more than 500 species of sharks in the world today and they are some of the best known predators around. Although most sharks typically swim around at a leisurely pace, some are capable of absolutely devastating bursts of speed which they use to great effect when hunting their prey. Although some sharks are naturally built for speed, there are others that are surprising quick despite their appearance. But just how fast can they really swim? Join us as we discover the fastest sharks in the world!
#10 Fastest Shark: Tiger Shark
The first shark on the list is the formidable tiger shark. Tiger sharks are well known as one of the most dangerous species due to a high number of unprovoked and fatal attacks on humans. They are apex predators and eat virtually anything they come across and one of the things that helps them be such incredible hunters is their speed. Despite appearing to move slowly, tiger sharks are capable of accelerating incredibly quickly and can reach up to 20mph. They use this to seize their prey before they get the opportunity to escape. Tiger sharks also use their size to their advantage- being able to reach lengths of almost 14 feet. They typically inhabit coastal waters in tropical and subtropical oceans around the world, which is why they can often come into contact with humans.
#9 Fastest Shark: Hammerhead Shark
Also capable of reaching speeds of up to 20mph are hammerhead sharks. Named for their distinctive hammer-shaped head, there are nine species of hammerhead sharks and their size ranges between 2ft 11in and 19ft 8in. Hammerheads live in warm water around the world along coastlines and continental shelves. They eat a wide variety of prey including fish, crustaceans, squid, octopus, stingrays, and other sharks. They frequently swim along the ocean floor in search of food. Great hammerheads are one of the largest and most aggressive species and often eat other hammerheads. Both great and scalloped hammerheads are critically endangered, mainly as a result of overfishing.
#8 Fastest Shark: Bull Shark
A shark with a particularly notorious reputation is the bull shark, which can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. Bull sharks are large requiem sharks which usually reach around 11 feet long. Although they typically live in coastal regions they are renouned for their ability to tolerate freshwater and are frequently seen hundreds of miles upriver. Bull sharks are solitary hunters and feed on a range of prey including bony fish, stingrays, turtles, and dolphins. They are opportunistic feeders and hunt using a method known as “bump and bite”. This is when they bump something with their nose first to see what it is and then bite to see if it is edible. Bull sharks often continue to bump and bite their prey until it is too exhausted, or unable, to swim away.
#7 Fastest Shark: Nurse Shark
Despite their appearance and reputation for being slow-moving sharks, nurse sharks can actually reach 25mph. Nurse sharks are a vulnerable species of shark which inhabit tropical and subtropical waters in the Eastern Pacific and the Eastern and Western Atlantic oceans. They typically reach 10 feet long and have distinctly rounded heads with two barbels between their nostrils. Nurse sharks are bottom-dwellers and mainly prey on small fish, stingrays, crustaceans, and molluscs. They have dense, flattened teeth rather than sharp and pointy ones so that they can crack open the shells of their prey easily. Incredibly, they actually use suction to pull their prey into their mouths.
#6 Fastest Shark: Thresher Shark
Some of the most fascinating and unique sharks are thresher sharks, of which there are three existing species. Thresher sharks live in all tropical and temperate oceans. They are large sharks which can reach lengths of up to 20 feet. They are incredibly distinctive as they have extremely long tails, which can be almost as long as their bodies. Thresher sharks often whip their tails violently, frequently slashing or stunning their prey with them. They mainly feed on tuna and mackerel, but also sometimes prey on seabirds too. Thresher sharks can swim at 30 miles per hour, but can whip their tail at up to 80mph! Their unique appearance, combined with the speeds that they can reach and their ability to jump out of the water, makes them a popular choice as a game fish.
#5 Fastest Shark: Grey Reef Shark
One of the most agile and aggressive predators is the grey reef shark which can reach speeds of up to 31 mph in short bursts. Grey reef sharks are an endangered species of requiem shark. They are native to the Indian and Pacific oceans where they typically live at depths of less than 200 feet. They frequently live around coral reefs, hence their name, and are generally considered to be one of the fastest swimmers in within their habitat. Grey reef sharks have a streamlined body with a blunt snout and are no bigger than 8.5 feet long. They feed mainly on bony fish, squid, octopus, crabs, and lobsters. Grey reef sharks are particularly well known for their “threat displays” which involves adopting a “hunched” posture and swimming with an exaggerated side to side motion.
#4 Largest Shark: Great White Shark
Easily the best known shark on the list and the one with the most notorious reputation is the great white. Great white sharks are considered to be the most dangerous of all sharks, given their unpredictable nature and their relatively high number of attacks on humans. Therefore, knowing that they can achieve speeds of up to 34 miles per hour probably isn’t a great comfort! Great whites are large mackerel sharks which can reach 20 feet in length and weigh up to 5,000 pounds. They inhabit virtually all oceans with water between 12 and 24°C. Great whites are apex predators and have a bite force of 4,000 psi. They eat a wide range of prey, including seals, fish, dolphins, porpoises, whales, turtles, and birds.
#3 Fastest Shark: Blue Shark
Also known as the wolves of the sea, blue sharks can reach the impressive speed of 43mph. Although they generally appear to be fairly slow and lethargic, blue sharks attack their prey from below using a sudden burst of speed. Their main prey are squid, although they also eat fish, sea birds, and smaller sharks. Blue sharks can reach 12 feet long and have a long and slender build. They inhabit deep temperate and tropical waters up to around 1,150 feet. Blue sharks are viviparous and give birth to up to 135 live young per litter. Blue sharks are typically preyed on by killer whales, great white sharks, and tiger sharks.
#2 Fastest Shark: Salmon Shark
Coming in at a close second is the salmon shark which can reach speeds of up to 45mph. Although there have been reports of them attaining much higher speeds, these are widely disregarded as being inaccurate. Salmon sharks are generally around 10 feet long and are grey to black on their upper bodies and white below, often giving them the appearance of a great white. They are native to the north Pacific ocean where they are an apex predator. As their name suggests, salmon sharks regularly prey on salmon, although they also eat squid, herring, and sablefish.
#1 Fastest Shark: Shortfin Mako Shark
The fastest shark in the world is the shortfin mako shark. Shortfin mako sharks have a cruising speed of 31 mph, but can attain 46 mph in short bursts. Shortfin mako sharks reach approximately 13 feet long and are blue on their dorsal side and white on their underside. They live in temperate and tropical oceans around the world but are an endangered species. Shortfin mako sharks eat a wide range of prey, including mackerel, tuna, porpoises, turtles, and other sharks. They use their speed to lunge upwards in the water towards their prey before their prey even notice them, biting their flanks and fins.
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