The movie Jaws has left us all in fear of one day coming face to face with a shark that thinks we’re its next meal. Admit it; we have all had at least one nightmare about being attacked by a shark, and probably way more if you live near an ocean.
Sharks are the leaders of the food chain when it comes to the waters, and most shark species are considered a threat to humans. Sharks all have large teeth, huge body masses, and hunter tendencies – nothing that makes you want to snuggle up and cuddle with one. The problem with the human fear of sharks is that they were killed for years and years without considering how the shark population could be affected. Due mainly to fishing and commercial fish sales, many shark species are getting closer to being put on the endangered list. Many organizations have been created around the world to help implement measures that keep sharks, along with the other fish of the oceans, safe. Even if they’re scary animals, it doesn’t mean they deserve to have their entire species whipped out.
This article looks at the data collected in the International Shark Attack Archive about ten shark species, which looks specifically at shark attacks that have occurred in Florida. It also gives you a character description of the 10 most dangerous sharks in the world, so you can know how to spot them if one ever comes your way. It also gives you a few tricks about how you can avoid a potential shark attack, but let’s hope you never have to worry about that.
10The Dusky Shark
According to the International Shark Attack Archive, dusky sharks are responsible for six attacks on humans. Luckily, only one of these had fatal consequences. The average dusky shark measures approximately 9.8 feet, which makes this species taller than any basketball player in the NBA. Some dusty sharks have even been found to be up to 13.7 feet long. Their large size functions as a danger to humans, and if that’s not enough to scare you – their bite matches the strength of over 130 pounds per 0.007 inches.
Dusky sharks can be found in all oceans, but especially in the Western Atlantic Ocean. In this part of the Atlantic Ocean, dusty sharks can be seen from the end of the continental shelf right up to the shores. Their swimming ranges from right at the surface of the water to more than 1,300 feet deep.
Unfortunately, the dusky shark population has been on the decline. Wikipedia tells us that “Because of its slow reproductive rate, the dusky shark is very vulnerable to human-caused population depletion. Commercial fisheries highly value this species for its fins, used in shark fin soup, and for its meat, skin, and liver oil. Recreational fishers also esteem it. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed this species as Vulnerable worldwide and Vulnerable off the eastern United States, where populations have dropped to 15–20% of 1970s levels.”
9The Copper Shark
The copper shark has a number of nicknames, including the cocktail shark and the narrow tooth shark. The copper shark is a carnivore that prefers to inhabit the wild seas. They can be found anywhere between surface level and 325 feet deep. In length, copper sharks measure approximately 8 feet, but the larger ones can be up to 11 feet long. They are a bronze color on their back and white on their belly.
The International Shark Attack Archive, members of the copper shark species, have 36 attack records under their belt. Of these 36 attacks, only one of them ended in the person being attacked dying. Copper sharks may not be serial killers, but with the size of their teeth, they can do some severe damage to a human – and vice versa as well. The copper shark is at risk of being harmed by human tendencies like fishing and habitat destroying. So, it seems a copper shark’s relationship with a human is not beneficial for either, except maybe for fishers. The problem with this, like with many other shark species, is that human pressures may lead the copper shark to become endangered.
Shark Insider states, “Tagging studies in Australia show that adults sometimes return to the same areas year after year. The maximum distance traveled by one individual in a study in South Africa was 1,320 km (825 miles)!”
8The Blacktip Shark
The blacktip shark can be described as a predator. This type of shark is easily recognizable in comparison to other shark species because of the black tips on its dorsal, pectoral, and lower fins – as its name suggests. The blacktip pigmentation that gives this species its name disappears with age.
The blacktip shark is a rather shy animal that prefers to eat fish, not humans. When it is hunting for its next meal, it swims rapidly through schools of fish to catch as many as it possibly can in one go. What makes the blacktip shark scary is that it always remains close to the surface. It lives between zero to 100 feet deep, so crossing paths with a blacktip shark is not uncommon for humans. It is known for frequenting the shallow parts of beaches and rivers, so keeping an eye out for them is crucial.
Blacktip sharks are behind 16% of all Florida shark attacks. This seems like a large number at first, but according to the International Shark Attack Archive, blacktip sharks are only responsible for 45 attacks throughout history. Like the copper shark and the dusky shark, only one of their attacks ended in fatal consequences for the human.
Blacktip sharks are a terror for anyone who surfs since surfers are more likely to come into contact with them than a person swimming at the shore. They also have been seen leaping above water, which can cause them to send a surfer flying off of their board accidentally.
7The Sand Tiger Shark
This shark species has been responsible for 77 attacks up to date, and again, only one of these have been fatal. The sand tiger shark is characterized by having greyish, brownish undertones to its skin. Some sand tiger sharks may have dark spots spread all over their body, although not all of them do. It lives between 6.5 and 626 feet deep in the water, rarely ever making its way to surface, unless it needs to do so to get air in its stomach. Here’s a fun fact: sharks need air in their bellies to keep them afloat. They have three rows of pointed teeth inside their mouths, making their bites hurt more than any of us could ever imagine.
The sand tiger shark is on the endangered species list. Unlike other shark species, sand tiger shark females only have one or two baby sharks per year. This isn’t by choice, though. When these females are pregnant, the more significant fetuses end up eating, the smaller ones while in their mother’s uterus. So, typically the only one makes it out alive. What does that tell us? Sand tiger sharks are murderers even before they are born!
The average sand tiger shark is about 10 feet long. With this size, it can fit an entire person inside it, which makes people consider this shark species a “maneater.” Compared to the last three sharks we’ve discussed, it is more dangerous, but it seems like a good guy in comparison to the rest of the sharks on our list.
6The Shortfin Mako Shark
The shortfin mako shark has been the reason for 33 attacks on humans, of which two resulted in deaths. This species lives anywhere in the world’s oceans, from surface level to 290 feet deep. The only waters that these species aren’t found in are the Arctic and the Antarctic since they prefer hot waters. Due to the speed that they are able to move, they can jump 13 feet out of the water on pure impulse. All of these characteristics make it a hazardous shark species. There have been a number of instances where a shortfin mako shark attacks on fishing vessels, or even jumping right into them. This, clearly, puts any human on board the fishing vessel in great danger.
The biggest shortfin mako shark that has been found to date measured 14.7 feet! Thanks to its long length, it is the fastest fish in the world. It can swim at a crazy speed of 61.1 feet per second.
According to Oceana.org, “Everywhere that they live, they are either targeted commercially or captured accidentally in fisheries targeting other species. These sharks are valued for the high quality of their fins and meat… Fisheries use longline or gillnet fishing gear to target these sharks specifically. The combination of these practices is driving down populations of shortfin makos all around the world, and scientists now believe them to be vulnerable to extinction. Without increased conservation and management efforts, this species’ populations will continue to decline, perhaps to a dangerous degree.”
5The Oceanic Whitetip Shark
According to the International Shark Attack Archive, oceanic whitetip sharks have only been responsible for three human deaths in Florida, but their record for attacks is much more significant.
The oceanic whitetip shark is distinguished by having somewhat rounded fins with white endings. Its front finds resemble paddles when they are open wide, which gives the impression that it may just be an innocent dolphin. The oceanic whitetip shark is far from harmless – it is actually an extremely aggressive fish. Although it has aggressive behaviors, it is a slow-moving fish whenever it is not hunting. But when it is, it eats all kinds of fish, even the excrement that comes out of whales. You could say these sharks not picky with their meals.
It is known for being an opportunist predator, meaning it takes advantage of misfortunes when they come about, such as shipwrecks and plane crashes. According to CBS News, “The Oceanic Whitetip has earned a reputation for being first to arrive on the scene when ocean ships run afoul – especially during wartime. The shark was blamed for many of the fatalities related to the sinking of the steamship Nova Scotia off the coast of South Africa during World War 2. Only 192 of the nearly 1,000 men on board survived. Eyewitness accounts from the survivors recounted a “feeding frenzy” as sharks attacked men waiting in the water for rescue.”
4The Blue Shark
The blue shark is a dangerous species for human beings since they have been involved with 34 attacks in Florida alone that ended in fatal consequences. Fortunately for divers, it is an easily recognizable shark thanks to its slender form. Other characteristics that define it are its metallic blue coloring and its long thin fins. It has a specific jaw that is both triangular with oddly curved teeth. The edges of their teeth can be compared to a saw with how sharp they are, which makes it a solid hunter. The blue shark is famous for only hunting during the night hours.
The blue shark’s typical behavior is described by stating that “It is a slow-swimming animal that increases its speed when feeling stimulated by external factors, such as the presence of animals from which it can feed on. If this happens, it then becomes one of the fastest fish.” It measures, on average, 8.2 feet long. It lives in cold seas where the temperature ranges from 44 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The blue shark the most distributed of the shark species.
Although it is a threat to humans, it is sad to say that the blue shark has been put on the “Near Threatened” list for animals. Organizations have begun conducting measures to keep this shark species safe, but these sharks are still killed for finning in countries that have not made it illegal yet.
3The Bull Shark
The bull shark is also sometimes referred to as the Zambezi shark. Statistics have found that this shark species is responsible for 140 attacks on humans, of which 27 ended in deaths. Although this is what statistics have seen, it is assumed that the number of attacks they are responsible for is actually much more substantial.
The bull shark lives in anywhere from the surface to 100 feet deep. At its broadest, it can measure 11 feet in length. What differentiates this shark species from others is its special gland in the kidney that allows it to store saltwater and expel fresh water from its body. And what does this do exactly? This unique water talent enables it to swim across rivers for periods lasting longer than a year, which most sharks cannot do. This also makes it an extremely dangerous creature as it is reasonable to find it in rivers such as the Amazon, the Ganges, or the Mississippi. This means it frequents the same places humans do, and also means it attacks it places humans commonly are – making it a threat to us. The bull shark’s attack is rapid and lethal. It can reach almost 12 miles an hour in speed when it is hunting. It is known for is an atrocious bite that has an insane force of 1,350 pounds. This force is enough to kill a human in a matter of seconds.
2The Tiger Shark
Not to be confused with the sand tiger shark, as the tiger shark is much more dangerous – the second most dangerous in the world, to be specific. This shark species has participated in 140 incidents with humans, and 40 of these ended in fatalities. Unlike other shark species, the tiger shark doesn’t reject human flesh. It lives in the seas of the whole world, although its largest population can be found in the warm waters of the Central Pacific Ocean.
The tiger shark was given its name due to the fact that it has a row of stripes on its body that looks similar to those of a tiger. Not to mention, it is as ferocious as a tiger. The most massive tiger shark found, to date, measured the extraordinary length of 18 feet. That’s as long as three tall humans put together!
The tiger shark eats almost anything that comes it’s way, even things like car plates have been found in their stomachs. Its diet should remind us, humans, to stop polluting the ocean waters because our garbage is ending up in the stomachs of fish, which can be very dangerous to their livelihood. When the tiger shark bites, it moves its head back and forth, as this allows its teeth to work the same way a saw does. The tiger shark’s teeth are designed to break hard surfaces, like turtle shells, and tear flesh apart.
1The Great White Shark
The great white shark has been crowned the most dangerous shark species in the world. It has been responsible for 431 attacks on humans, with 80 of these resulting in deaths.
Its average length is about 24 feet long. Its characterized by the 3,000 teeth shaped like arrows that can be found in its mouth. These teeth all have serrated edges that can exceed 2.7 inches in length. If you’re not good with visualizing measurements, those are some massive teeth. Behind each of its primary teeth, one or two teeth are growing, ready to replace the main one if it ends up falling out. The great white shark can close its shell with the power of almost 24 tonnes. It has terminations on the end of its face that collect the vibrations of the water, which allows it to detect prey with ease.
When the great white shark wants to attack, it puts itself underneath its prey. This camouflages it from the victim since its skin has a darker coloring on the top of its body. Once it feels like the moment is right, it attacks. As it begins to bite, it shakes its head to pull out as much meat from the prey as possible. The result of this is horrifying to see. If the victim is small in size, it gets eaten all in one shot. If the prey is large, the great white shark tears off an entire piece of its body at first, and then returns later to finish it off.
Contrary to what most may think, the great white shark doesn’t enjoy human flesh. It only attacks when it feels threatened and doesn’t end up eating the human body it hunts. So, although it won’t bite humans, any human that gets attacked by a great white shark is likely to lose a limb and bleed to death.
After reading this list, it is sure to have dawned on you that sharks are not a human’s best friend. The Florida Museum provides some information that may be comforting, though:
“As apex predators, sharks limit the populations of the animals they eat. This maintains the balance of nature. Sharks occasionally do bite humans, but not all bites are feeding events. Sharks sometimes grab humans by mistake. Other times an attack may protect a shark’s space, much as a dog barks at and bites intruders. The yearly average of unprovoked shark attacks on humans is 80, resulting in about six deaths. These worldwide numbers are small, given the millions of humans that enter the water. You have a better chance of dying from a bee sting, a dog or snake bite, or lightning than from a shark attack.”
Knowing ways to avoid shark attacks is always beneficial. One of the best ways is to always swim in a group whenever you are in ocean waters since sharks attack individuals mostly when they are alone. Another piece of advice that your parents are sure to have warned you about at some point in your life is never to go in ocean waters if you are bleeding, this attracts sharks instantly. Shiny jewelry should never be worn while in any waters that may have sharks present because the reflection may look like scales to them, and they end up confusing you for a fish. The bottom line when it comes to sharks is to do your research about them and stay as far away from them as possible.