American Oceans

Largest Sharks in the Ocean

Sharks are some of the most majestic creatures present on Earth. With over 500 species swimming in the oceans, these apex predators are a highly diverse group of animals that have dominated our oceans for centuries.

biggest sharks in the ocean

Sharks come in various shapes and sizes, from the dwarf lantern shark, which is the size of the average human hand, to the gigantic whale shark.

Read on to learn more about these remarkable creatures as we list the biggest sharks ranked by the enormous sizes they can reach!

Whale Shark

The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the biggest of all shark and fish species alive, growing up to 55 feet long. It populates the tropical and warm temperate waters worldwide.

Biggest Whale Shark species swimming in temperate waters

Despite their intimidating size, these gentle giants are filter feeders and feed on plankton and small fish.

They are not aggressive by nature and pose no significant threat to humans. Accordingly, swimming with whale sharks is a popular tourist attraction in various countries.

With white spots all over the body, these massive creatures can weigh up to a whopping 42 tonnes and give birth to hundreds of pups.

The IUCN classifies whale sharks as endangered species, and they face an increasing threat of extinction due to boat strikes and other human activities.

Basking Shark

The second-largest sharks in the oceans, basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus), are filter feeders like the whale sharks, swimming with their huge mouths wide open and taking in plankton as it comes.

Basking Shark swimming with huge mouths wide open

Highly migratory species growing 25 feet in length, basking sharks are harmless creatures, spending most of their time feeding near the water’s surface.

Featuring an enormous grey body, basking sharks are widely distributed and inhabit the world’s arctic and temperate waters close to the shoreline.

Like the whale shark, basking sharks are classified as endangered as per the IUCN Red List.

Megamouth Shark

Another plankton feeder native to all oceans in the world, the megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios), is the smallest of all plankton-eating sharks at 17 feet long.

It is most commonly found in the Pacific Ocean. Deriving its name from its extraordinarily massive, circular mouth, megamouth sharks are a rare species that have been observed in the wild only a few times.

First discovered in 1976, scientists and wildlife experts believe that there are only about 200 sightings of megamouth sharks to have occurred to date.

Great White Shark

One of the largest sharks and among the fiercest predatory fish in the world, the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), is renowned for its extraordinary hunting skills, whereby it rips its prey into pieces before swallowing them whole.

Great White Shark hunting its prey underwater

Great white sharks inhabit the cool coastal waters worldwide and feed upon various prey, including earless seals, dolphins, and sea lions.

They can grow up to 20 feet long and are responsible for the most shark attacks on humans worldwide.

With that said, most of these are non-fatal sample bites out of curiosity, as it is believed humans are not among the great white’s favorite prey.

Great Hammerhead Shark

The largest of all hammerhead species growing up to 20 feet long, the great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) is found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide.

Great Hammerhead Shark species in tropical waters

Deriving their name from the distinctive shape of their heads, the great hammerhead is an iconic species that faces a significant threat of overfishing due to the high value of their fins in the shark fin trade.

Tiger Shark

As the name implies, tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) have distinctive vertical stripes on their sides. The tiger shark is a furious predator that will turn anything into its prey.

Tiger Shark predator or Galeocerdo cuvier

As second only to the great whites in attacking humans, tiger sharks are aggressive shark species likely to attack people even when unprovoked. They may also be the only shark species that regularly prey on sea turtles.

As highly migratory species, tiger sharks are found in the tropical and sub-tropical waters of the world, except the Mediterranean Sea.

Growing up to 15 feet long, tiger sharks are very productive species and produce over 80 pups per litter.

Thresher Shark

The thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus) is the most wide-ranging of all shark species, present in all temperate and tropical waters worldwide except polar waters.

Thresher Shark or Alopias vulpinus in tropical waters

A little shy of 15 feet long, these sharks feature a massive tail, which they use to generate tremendous power as they swim and hunt and which comprises almost half of their entire body.

Bluntnose Sixgill Shark

The Bluntnose Sixgill Shark (Hexanchus griseus), also known as the cow shark, is a deepwater shark with an average length of 15 to 16 feet and a highly migratory species residing in temperate and tropical regions around the world.

Bluntnose Sixgill Shark or Hexanchus griseus found underwater

It features a blunt and wide snout and has six long gill slits compared to other sharks, which have five.

The bluntnose sixgills shark can give birth to 100 pups at a given time and feeds on various prey items like crabs, shrimps, squid, and even other sharks.

Greenland Shark

Native to the freezing, deep waters of the Arctic Oceans and North Atlantic, the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus), also known as the sleeper shark, is amongst the slowest of all sharks, moving through the water at about one mile per hour.

With that said, these filter feeder sharks are top predators that mainly feed upon plankton.

Greenland Shark or Somniosus microcephalus predator

Measuring up to 12 feet long, the Greenland shark is the world’s most long-lived vertebrate, with a life expectancy that could reach 392 years.

Not only this, but they don’t reach sexual maturity until about 150 years old.

Pacific Sleeper Shark

Pacific sleeper sharks (Somniosus pacificus) are native to the temperate waters in the North Pacific.

Pacific Sleeper Shark or Somniosus pacificus in waters

Measuring up to 12 feet, these large, slow-moving sharks have toxic flesh when eaten and feed upon octopuses, giant squids, and crabs.

However, they often get preyed upon by killer whales. Pacific sleeper sharks can produce up to 300 pups in a litter, making them quite productive sharks.

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