American Oceans

How Many Hearts Does a Shark Have?

Sharks are fascinating creatures that have captured the imagination of humans for centuries.

a rendering of a transparent shark and all its organs

One of the most intriguing aspects of these animals is their anatomy, particularly their hearts.

Many people wonder how many hearts sharks have, and the answer may surprise you.

Overall, understanding the anatomy of sharks is essential for anyone who wants to learn more about these incredible creatures.

Read on below to answer all your questions!

Shark Anatomy

a great white shark swimming in the water

Sharks are a diverse group of fish with unique anatomical features that have allowed them to thrive in marine environments for millions of years.

Their anatomy is adapted to their predatory lifestyle, with specialized organs and senses that help them locate, capture, and consume prey.

Shark Circulatory System

a silky shark swimming int he gulf of mexico

Sharks have a closed circulatory system, which means that their blood is contained within vessels and does not directly come in contact with their organs.

The heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. Most sharks have two-chambered hearts, which consist of an atrium and a ventricle.

However, some species such as the great white shark have four-chambered hearts, similar to mammals.


Sharks obtain oxygen through their gills, which extract oxygen from water as it flows over them.

The gills are located on the sides of the shark’s head and are covered by a protective bony plate called the operculum.

Blood flows through the gills in the opposite direction to the water, which allows for efficient oxygen exchange. The oxygenated blood is then circulated throughout the body.

Body Temperature

Sharks are ectothermic, which means that their body temperature is regulated by the surrounding water. As a result, their circulatory system plays an important role in maintaining body temperature.

Sharks have a heat exchange system called the rete mirabile, which helps to keep their brain and eyes warm.

The rete mirabile is a network of small blood vessels that allows warm blood from the muscles to transfer heat to cooler blood returning from the gills.

Shark Species and Their Hearts

Great White Shark

Great White Shark

The Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is a large predatory shark that can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh over 5,000 pounds.

It has a powerful heart that can pump blood throughout its body, enabling it to swim at high speeds and hunt its prey.

The Great White Shark has a single, four-chambered heart that is similar in structure and function to the hearts of other mammals, including humans.

Whale Shark

whale sharks swimming together underwater

The Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest fish in the world, measuring up to 40 feet in length and weighing over 20 tons.

Despite its massive size, the Whale Shark has a relatively small heart that is only about the size of a human fist.

This is because the Whale Shark has a unique circulatory system that allows it to efficiently distribute oxygen and nutrients throughout its body without the need for a large heart.

Mako Shark

a shortfin mako shark swimming underwater

The Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) is a fast-swimming shark that can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. It has a large, powerful heart that is capable of pumping blood at a rate of up to 20 gallons per minute.

The Mako Shark has a single, four-chambered heart that is similar in structure and function to the hearts of other sharks and mammals.

Basking Shark

Basking Shark swimming with huge mouths wide open

The Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is a slow-moving shark that feeds on plankton and small fish. It has a relatively small heart that is capable of pumping blood at a rate of up to 10 gallons per minute.

The Basking Shark has a single, four-chambered heart that is similar in structure and function to the hearts of other sharks and mammals.

Function and Role of Shark’s Heart

a great hammerhead shark swimming

Sharks have a unique circulatory system that is responsible for maintaining their body pressure and balance.

The shark’s heart is a two-chambered organ that pumps blood through the gills to extract oxygen and then circulates it throughout the body.

The heart is positioned in such a way that it helps to maintain the shark’s balance in the water.

Predation and Diet

Sharks are apex predators and require a lot of energy to hunt and catch their prey. The shark’s heart plays a crucial role in this process by providing the necessary oxygen and nutrients to the muscles needed for the chase.

The heart also helps to remove waste products from the muscles, allowing the shark to continue hunting for longer periods.

Sharks have a varied diet that includes fish, squid, and even marine mammals like seals and sea lions. The heart is adapted to handle the different types of food that the shark consumes.

For example, when a shark eats a seal or sea lion, the heart must work harder to digest the fatty tissue, which requires more oxygen.

Evolution of Shark Hearts

a shark close up

Sharks have a unique cardiovascular system that distinguishes them from other fish. Sharks have a two-chambered heart that pumps blood to the gills for oxygenation and then to the rest of the body.

The heart is composed of a single, S-shaped tube that is divided into an anterior and a posterior chamber. The anterior chamber receives deoxygenated blood from the body and pumps it to the gills, while the posterior chamber receives oxygenated blood from the gills and pumps it to the rest of the body.

The shark heart also has a unique structure that allows it to maintain blood flow to the gills even when the shark is not swimming.

The heart is surrounded by a network of blood vessels called the coronary circulation, which supplies oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle.

The heart muscle also has a high concentration of mitochondria, which allows it to generate ATP efficiently and support the high metabolic demands of the shark.

Fossil Evidence

The evolution of the shark heart can be traced back to the Devonian period, over 400 million years ago.

Fossilized shark skeletons provide evidence of the evolution of the cardiovascular system, including the heart and the ampullae of Lorenzini, which are sensory organs that detect electrical fields.

The earliest sharks had a simple, tubular heart that was similar to the hearts of other fish. However, over time, the shark heart evolved to become more complex and efficient.

Sharks developed a two-chambered heart that was better suited to their active lifestyle and allowed them to swim faster and for longer periods of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the anatomy of a shark’s heart?

A shark’s heart is a muscular organ located in the chest cavity, just behind the gills. It is shaped like a tube and has a series of four chambers: the sinus venosus, the atrium, the ventricle, and the conus arteriosus.

The heart is surrounded by a thin membrane called the pericardium, which helps protect it from damage.

How does a shark’s heart differ from other fish?

Compared to other fish, a shark’s heart is much larger in proportion to its body size. It also has a more complex structure, with four chambers instead of the two found in most fish.

Additionally, the walls of the heart are thicker and more muscular, which allows it to pump blood at higher pressures.

Do all sharks have the same number of hearts?

Yes, all sharks have only one heart. However, some species of shark have a modified circulatory system that allows them to pump blood to their gills more efficiently.

These sharks have a second set of blood vessels, called the branchial hearts, that help circulate blood through the gills.

How many chambers does a shark’s heart have?

A shark’s heart has four chambers: the sinus venosus, the atrium, the ventricle, and the conus arteriosus. The sinus venosus is a thin-walled chamber that collects blood from the body and pumps it into the atrium.

The atrium then pumps the blood into the ventricle, which is the largest and most muscular chamber. Finally, the conus arteriosus pumps the blood out of the heart and into the rest of the body.

What is the function of a shark’s heart?

The main function of a shark’s heart is to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body and remove waste products such as carbon dioxide.

The heart also helps regulate the shark’s body temperature by directing blood flow to different parts of the body.

How does a shark’s heart rate compare to other animals?

Sharks have a relatively low heart rate compared to other animals of similar size. For example, a great white shark has a resting heart rate of around 30 beats per minute, while a human’s resting heart rate is typically between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

However, when a shark is active or under stress, its heart rate can increase significantly to help meet the increased demand for oxygen.

Add comment