Sharks are known as one of the most fascinating and longest-living creatures in the sea. Moreover, as apex ocean predators, many sharks can swim incredibly fast.
Read on as we explore the fastest sharks in the ocean ranked from one to ten.
While all of the following sharks are fast, they differ in their physical attributes, preferred habitat, and other aspects that influence their speed.
Table of Contents
Shortfin Mako Shark
Scientific name: Isurus oxyrinchus
These endangered sharks live in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with a preference for warmer water. Unlike other sharks, the shortfin mako sharks are warm-blooded. They enjoy eating many foods, including small fish, sea turtles, Cephalopods, and birds.
They can reach a length of around 13 feet and a weight of around 1,300 pounds, making them one of the larger shark species. Shortfin mako sharks give birth to live young after a 15 to 18-month gestation period.
The shortfin mako shark is the fastest in the world. It can reach a maximum speed of 46 miles per hour. However, it generally travels at 31 mph. Some of that speed may be due to this shark’s warm-blooded nature.
Scientific name: Lamna ditropis
Salmon sharks can be close to seven to nine feet and can weigh up to 500 pounds. People often mistake this shark for the great white due to its white underbelly, dark grey back, and general shape. They do well in a range of water temperatures. However, they usually like to be close to the surface.
Salmon sharks can swim at speeds of 45 miles per hour, making them one of the fastest sharks in the world. Its speed may be partially due to its ability to maintain its stomach and overall body temperature. This trait is not often found among fish species.
There are some mysteries surrounding this shark in the ocean, including the species’ exact reproductive habits and why there seem to be twice as many males as females in the entire population. Gestation usually lasts around nine months and is ovoviviparous.
Longfin Mako Shark
Scientific name: Isurus paucus
Longfin mako shark is warm-blooded like the closely related shortfin mako shark. They can also reach similar speeds of around 46 miles per hour. However, they have slimmer bodies and longer fins, which suggest that they’re less active than the dynamic shortfin mako sharks.
Longfin mako shark prefers warm tropical or temperate water. Its diet consists of small fish, cephalopods, and similar prey in those habitats. Notably, the two mako species often get confused with one another, so it’s challenging to precisely determine their respective worldwide distribution.
Grey Reef Shark
Scientific name: Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos
While the grey reef shark maintains a slower cruising speed, it can reach 31 miles per hour when it speeds up. That speed comes in handy if this endangered shark wants to evade larger predators, such as great whites, hammerheads, and tiger sharks. They are also able to speed up to surprise their prey in open waters.
When it is not in open water, the grey reef shark spends most of its time in shallow water near coral reefs in the Pacific ocean. Known for their aggression, these sharks can run the reef with little competition. They usually signal before they are going to attack.
Scientific name: Alopias sp.
There are three species of thresher sharks. Two of the species have a mechanism that makes them somewhat warm-blooded and able to regulate their body temperature. As with other sharks, that ability improves speed. They can reach speeds of around 30 miles per hour.
While the shark’s temperature regulation plays a role in its speed, its tail also makes a big difference. This species is known for its long, sharp tail. Besides its fast swimming speed, the thresher shark can quickly breach the water to leap out into the air. They can also rapidly move their tail while hunting to stun and cut prey in half.
Scientific name: Carcharhinus leucas
Bull sharks live throughout the world in warm and shallow water. They can survive in both salt and freshwater, making them content to be in rivers and oceans alike. They can be found anywhere between the Mississippi River and the northern Pacific ocean. Unfortunately, their preference for shallow water results in them being responsible for most recorded shark attacks.
Do not let their stocky frame fool you. The bull shark is fast and agile. Even though they are not warm-blooded like some of the faster sharks on this list, their proclivity for warmer water aids their speed. They can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour.
Great White Shark
Scientific name: Carcharodon carcharias
The well-known great white shark is a large sea creature that can swim at 35 miles per hour in small bursts. As a result, they can travel far distances throughout the world. Great whites prefer temperate and subtropical water, traveling throughout most of the world.
Great white sharks have no known predators besides an occasional tiff with an orca. They will eat almost anything they come across, favoring fish, seals, birds, and whales. When they hunt prey closer to the surface, they can breach the top of the water at high speed.
Scientific name: Prionace glauca
The blue shark is a dweller in deep tropical and temperate water. They have long pectoral fins and their blue bodies are usually between six and 11 feet. Its frame is slender and compact. All of these qualities make the creature an efficient swimmer.
While this shark’s dynamic shape suggests it would be one of the top five fastest sharks, its preference for cooler water means blue sharks usually conserve energy by swimming slowly. However, it can reach top speeds of 24 miles per hour on occasion. They migrate far distances and live off the coasts of all continents except for Antarctica.
Scientific name: Galeocerdo cuvier
The large tiger shark gets its name from the pattern on its back and its talent as a predator. They live in tropical and temperate water throughout the world, with a large presence close to shores and near islands. These creatures love to eat everything and anything in their path.
Tiger sharks usually swim at speeds around 20 miles per hour. However, they can also achieve faster speeds while capturing prey. This speed may be the result of their long tails and pectoral fins and their preference for warm water.
Scientific name: Eusphyra sp., Sphyrna spp.
The hammerhead is known for its unique heat shape. There are at least nine species classified as hammerhead sharks. They favor warm coastlines as a habitat. That warm temperature helps these species reach a speed of around 20 miles per hour, despite not being endothermic.
In addition to their speed, these sharks are also agile, thanks to the orientation of their fins. As a result, they can catch a plethora of prey. Sometimes they even eat other Hammerheads.
Frequently Asked Questions
There’s always more to learn about the speed at which sharks and other ocean dwellers can move, so here are some of the most frequently asked questions on that topic.
What is the slowest shark in the world?
The slowest shark in the world is the Greenland shark. This species does not usually exceed speeds of one mile per hour. Such a slow speed is likely due to the shark’s preference for cold environments. With that lack of movement and cold comes a slow metabolism and a long life.
How fast is a nurse shark?
A nurse shark is fairly fast, with speeds up to 25 miles per hour at peak speeds. However, when they swim around at a cruising speed of around two miles per hour. So, it makes sense they are a common sight for divers.
Was the megalodon a fast shark?
The megalodon was indeed a fast shark. When scientists analyzed how fast it swam based on its size and mass, they found it could likely swim at around 3.1 miles per hour as a cruising speed and 22 miles per hour as a burst speed.
What is the fastest marine animal?
The sailfish is the fastest marine animal. It can swim at about 68 miles per hour, which is as fast as a cheetah can run on land. They can reach this speed thanks to the shape of the sail on their back when they leap out of the water.