The Gulf of Mexico is home to many shark species and an abundance of wildlife. It is a large gulf that even touches some Alabama beaches. Usually, when people think of Alabama, they think of southern living and countryside food, which is only partially true! There are also many warm beaches to choose from.
Many species of sharks call the waters near Alabama beaches their home. The Gulf of Mexico is warm, which attracts a lot of coastal and deep water sharks. During the summers, you can frequently see multiple shark species along the 60-mile Alabama coast.
It would be time-consuming to go over all species that can be found along Alabama beaches, so instead, we will discuss the five biggest sharks near Alabama beaches!
1. Whale Shark
Whale sharks are funny fish because they are sharks that look, act, and hunt like whales. While these large fish may have a lot in common with whales, they are actually sharks. Many whale sharks live in the Gulf of Mexico and prefer deep waters, but occasionally, you can spot their large rounded heads along the coast of Alabama.
Most whale sharks stop growing between 18 to 32 feet, but scientists have measured whale sharks as large as 40 feet long! These sharks can weigh about 20.6 tons. Whale sharks also have sensory organs that protrude out of their faces, like cat whiskers. The bellies of these sharks are white, and they have many spots throughout their bodies. No two spots are identical.
It used to be rare, but now more and more whale sharks live in the Gulf close to the coast of Alabama. Other whale sharks travel throughout the world but mainly reside in Australia, India, and Mexico waters.
2. Hammerhead Shark
Hammerhead sharks love Alabama beaches because of the warmth of the water. These large predators have a long head that extends from side to side. As their name suggests, their head looks a lot like a hammer, with eyes on the corner of their head. Unlike other sharks with a long snout, their mouth is on the bottom of their body.
Hammerhead sharks mainly hunt for small fish and mammals, as well as stingrays. Using their heads, they thrash around along sandbars and near the coast, looking for stingrays. These sharks are also massive! The average hammerhead is about 4-5 feet long, while female hammerhead sharks easily reach 8 feet long.
Hammerhead sharks have an interesting hunting habit. In the morning, they live and swim along the coast, which is why there have been so many spottings near Alabama beaches. However, once the sun sets, they swim into the deep sea to hunt.
3. Great White Shark
While there are other more common sharks we can talk about, they aren’t as large as this beast. Great white sharks are massive predatory sharks with excellent hunting skills. Although many live in deeper waters, there have been dozens of reports in the last decade of great white sharks near Alabama beaches.
While the Gulf of Mexico is warm, great white sharks prefer colder and deeper waters, but they travel frequently and adapt well. They grow up to 21 feet. Male great whites only grow to 11-15 feet, while females reach 15-21 feet long.
Arranged in up to seven rows, great white sharks have about 300 sharp and triangular teeth. They are massive sharks, but their size does not stop them from also traveling quickly. In bursts, these sharks can swim over 35 miles per hour.
4. Bull Shark
Bull sharks are impressive sharks because of how versatile they are! While great white sharks get all the credit for being aggressive and large predators, bull sharks are just as fierce. These large sharks can swim in both saltwater and freshwater. They frequently swim up rivers and lakes from large oceans. Although some bull sharks travel and hunt in waters as deep as 90 feet, they prefer feeding close to the coast.
Bull sharks are also not picky eaters and will consume nearly everything. They mainly look for large schools of fish but sometimes hunt sea turtles and baby dolphins. Although they can easily break through the skin of a young dolphin, they rarely try since dolphins live in pods and will attack back.
Bull sharks are not the largest sharks in the world, but they are pretty big. On average, these sharks grow between 7 to 11.5 feet long.
5. Spinner Shark
If you are taking a trip to an Alabama beach, there is a chance you will witness a spinner shark hunting. Spinner sharks hunt in unique ways. They are not the largest sharks in the sea, but they are significantly bigger than humans, with a length between 7 to 11 feet.
To hunt for food, spinner sharks jump into the air quickly, diving in between large schools of fish containing tuna, herring, and sardines. As they come up, they spin about three times and chew on the fish caught in their mouths.
These sharks also eat squid and smaller juvenile sharks. Unlike other shark species, spinner sharks give birth to about 3-15 live baby sharks instead of laying eggs. They stay along the coast, especially juveniles, and they rarely travel past 350 feet underwater.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Fata Morgana by Andrew Marriott/Shutterstock.com
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