6 Types of Sharks Every Selachimorphaphile Should Know

By: Sascha Bos  | 
Sharks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Stephen Frink / Getty Images

If you're afraid of sharks, stop reading now, because we're about to get in deep with six types of sharks. Learn more about these fascinating fish — big and small, solid and patterned, sluggish and speedy.


6. Angel Sharks

Pacific angel shark
Pacific angel shark. Gerard Soury / Getty Images

Angel sharks are a group of sharks in the family Squatinidae, the only family in the order Squantiniformes. The name "angel" comes from their flattened pectoral fins, which form a "halo" around the head.

Angel sharks, also known as sand devils, live on the sea floor and ambush their unsuspecting prey. There are 24 species of angel sharks found around the world.


5. Bullhead Sharks

Port Jackson shark
Port Jackson shark. by wildestanimal / Getty Images

There are about nine shark species in the Heterodontidae, or bullhead shark, family. (Confusingly, the bull shark isn't one of them.) Bullhead sharks are small bottom feeders with wide heads, hence the name "bullhead."

One of the most famous bullheads — and the largest — is the Port Jackson shark (Heterodontus portusjacksoni), an Australian species that can reach up to 5.4 feet (1.65 meters).


4. Carpet Sharks

Whale shark
Whale shark. Jason Edwards / Getty Images

Carpet sharks are an eclectic bunch belonging to the order Orectolobiformes. The name "carpet" comes from their appearance; many (but not all) carpet sharks have markings reminiscent of a fancy rug.

Carpet shark species include:


  • Nurse shark: Nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum) are slow-moving creatures that eat crustaceans and mollusks. Their low-maintenance lifestyles make nurse sharks popular among aquariums.
  • Whale shark: The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) isn't quite as big as a 200-ton (181,437-kg) blue whale, but it is the largest living shark species, weighing up to 60 tons (54,400 kilograms). Like blue whales, whale sharks are filter feeders.
  • Zebra shark: Zebra sharks (Stegostoma tigrinum) are some of the cuter shark species, with their patterned skin and stingray-like smiles. Because they are not dangerous to humans, these zebra sharks are often found in aquariums.

3. Hammerhead Sharks

Great hammerhead shark
Great hammerhead shark. Colors and shapes of underwater / Getty Images

Some people think of the hammerhead shark as a single species, but its actually a family (Sphyrnidae). Hammerhead sharks all have those distinctively shaped heads that give them their name, but they range in size from 3.5 feet (1 meter) long — the bonnethead — to 18 feet (5 meters) long — the aptly named great hammerhead shark.


2. Mackerel Sharks

Basking shark
Basking shark. Corbis/VCG / Getty Images

Mackerel sharks (order Lamniformes) are a large group consisting of about 22 species in 10 different families. Some well-known mackerel sharks include:

  • Thresher shark: Thresher sharks are three species belonging to the Alopiidae family. The name "thresher" comes from their long, scythe-like tails. (Thresher is another word for scythe.)
  • Shortfin mako shark: The shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) is a speedy, long-nosed shark with an impressive bite force.
  • Goblin shark: The goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) is a creepy-looking deepwater shark with a large facial protrusion.
  • Sand tiger shark: The sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus), also known as the gray nurse shark, is a slow-moving shark found around the world.
  • Basking shark: The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is a plankton-eating shark, like the whale shark and its closer relative, the megamouth shark.
  • Megamouth shark: Megamouth sharks (Megachasma pelagios) are plankton-eating deepwater sharks known for their large mouths.


1. Requiem Sharks

Blue shark
Blue shark. Gerard Soury / Getty Images

Requiem sharks are large, migratory sharks in the family Carcharhinidae. Requieum shark species include:

  • Oceanic whitetip shark: As their name suggests, oceanic whitetip sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus) have frosted tips: their bodies are dark gray, but the tips of their fins are white.
  • Bull shark: The bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) is one of the more dangerous shark species because it dwells close to shore, where humans are more likely to swim.
  • Blacktip reef shark: Blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) are aptly named: They live near coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and have distinctive black-tipped fins.
  • Blue shark: The blue shark (Prionace glauca), also known as the great blue shark, is gray-blue in color with a white underside. Often caught as bycatch, blue sharks are near threatened.