Spectacular Shark Pictures
Sharks are one of nature’s most beautiful—and misunderstood—creatures. When most people think of sharks, they think of unexpecting swimmers being attacked and eaten by a nightmarish creature. But what they don’t know is that many sharks are more afraid of us than we are of them. The sharks that come close are probably curious about why such a long-finned animal—a person—that they’ve never seen before is splashing around in their ocean. Wouldn’t you want to check it out too? Go ahead and check out these sharks in this slideshow of some of the best photographs of these amazing animals. Then read 5 Reasons to Revere, Not Fear, the Shark and learn more about great white sharks.
Oceanic Whitetip Shark
The oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) is usually observed offshore in deep, warm waters throughout the world. The common length is about 270 cm (approximately 9 ft), but much larger oceanic whitetips have been recorded, one measuring 396 cm (approximately 13 ft). This once abundant and widespread shark faces serious population declines, due to fishing pressures. They are particularly sought after for their large fins which are used in shark fin soup.
© Brian Skerry, http://www.brianskerry.com
Great White Shark at SurfaceGreat white sharks are are marvels of evolution, with highly-evolved senses keeping them among the ocean’s top predators. Their biggest (and, perhaps, only) threat is people. Great whites are often portrayed as terrifying man-killers, which makes them a target for sport fishing and trophy hunters, who don't understand that humans do far more damage to sharks than sharks do to humans.
© Michael Rutzen
Face to Face with a Tiger Shark
What would you do if you came face to face with a shark? Brian Skerry lives for these moments and is ready with his camera. Here he is seen photographing a large tiger shark on the seafloor near the Bahamas. Read more about Life in the Field with Brian Skerry.
Copyright © Mark Conlin
Named for the radiant blue color on its back and sides, the blue shark (Prionace glauca) traverses the world’s temperate and tropical seas. Known for traveling great distances and being a swift predator, blue sharks feed on squid, bony fish, and marine mammal carrion . However fast the blue shark may be, its numbers are declining due to bycatch, sport and commercial fisheries, and illegal poaching.
Grey Reef Shark, West New Britain, Father Reefs, Papua New Guinea
Gray reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) are known for being active at night. They are considered Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List due to fishing and the loss of their coral reef habitat. The sinister animal, with its sleek body, can be quite aggressive when directly threatened.
Tobias Friedrich/Nature's Best Photography
Gaping Jaws of a Great White Shark
A great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) emerges from the water's surface, gaping its jaws. Sharks use gaping as a way to communicate with each other, in addition to their six highly refined senses.
© Alison Kock, Save Our Seas
Sharks Threatened by Finning
A fisherman holds a freshly cut dorsal fin from a scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini). Every year, humans kill an estimated 100 million sharks, often removing their fins alone. Removing sharks in large numbers can have ripple effects that throw entire ecosystems out of balance.
© Jeff Rotman/jeffrotman.com
Shortfin Mako Shark
The shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) is found offshore in tropical and warm temperate waters of all oceans, but has been known to travel to cooler waters at times. It is very strong and the fastest known species of shark. These qualities make the shortfin mako a prized catch among recreational fisherman. The mako is also sought by commercial fisheries for the production of shark fin soup, leather, and oils, and is often caught unintentionally as bycatch.
This hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) swims through the Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary site in Colombia, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2006. The marine park surrounding Malpelo Island is the largest no-fishing zone in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, providing critical refuge for threatened and endangered marine mammals, fish, and turtles. The nutrient-loaded waters support rich aggregations of biodiversity, including populations of large predators like this hammerhead shark, and is an important source of fish and invertebrate larvae to surrounding waters.
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark
A scalloped hammerhead Sphyrna lewini at Isla del Coco, Costa Rica. Illegal shark fishing along with increasing demand for shark fin soup has led to the removal of 95% of endangered scalloped hammerheads from the ocean.
© Terry Goss 2008/Marine Photobank
Smithsonian Shark Teeth collectionAn array of teeth from the sand tiger shark Carcharias taurus. The Smithsonian has the largest collection of shark teeth in the world, with more than 90,000 fossil shark teeth.
© Robert Purdy/Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Young Lemon Shark Swims Through Mangroves
Due to its large size, adaptability in captivity, and once abundant populations, the lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) has been the subject of extensive laboratory and field studies. Female sharks deposit their pups in shallow, coastal waters, and they live in these reef and mangrove nurseries for up to four years. As adults, they move to deeper waters of up to about 90 meters (295 feet) deep. Habitat destruction and loss in the coastal nurseries pose a serious threat to the sharks, in addition to commercial and recreational fisheries and mortality from bycatch.
Biomimicry Shark DenticlesGreat White Sharks are stealthy hunters and the secret is in their skin. Shark skin is covered by tiny flat V-shaped scales, called dermal denticles, that are more like teeth than fish scales. These denticles decrease drag and turbulence, allowing the shark to swim faster and more quietly. Olympian swimsuit designers have taken a page from the shark’s playbook and created a fabric that mimics the exact proportion of the shark’s denticles, hugely improving a swimmer’s speed.
© Trevor Sewell/Electron Microscope Unit, University of Cape Town
Caribbean Reef SharkLiving in warm shallow waters often near coral reefs in the Western Atlantic, from Florida to Brazil, the Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) is the most abundant shark in the Caribbean. It feeds mostly on bony fishes and rarely attacks humans. Despite the shark's abundance in some regions, it has a high mortality rate from bycatch and is sought by commercial fisheries for its fins and meat. It is illegal to catch Caribbean reef sharks in U.S. waters.
Tiger SharkThe distinct color pattern of young tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) has earned this species its common name. The tiger shark occupies warm waters around the world, and its large size, power, and unselective and opportunistic feeding habits have labeled it one of the most dangerous sharks in tropical waters. Direct and incidental fishing catches, also known as bycatch, pose threats to the species' numbers.
Lemon Shark, Offshore Grand Bahamas IslandAt night this lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) lurks at the surface, but often during the day they will lie on the ocean bottom. This behavior had been thought to save them energy, but in reality it takes energy for the shark to push water over their gills while not moving. They may be lying still to be cleaned by small fish, like the wrasse.
Deano Cook/Nature's Best Photography
Dwarf Lantern SharkThe smallest shark, a dwarf lantern shark (Etmopterus perryi) is smaller than a human hand. It's rarely seen and little is known about it, having only been observed a few times off the northern tip of South America. Like other lantern sharks, the dwarf lantern shark has light-emitting organs called photophores along its belly and fins. These help them camouflage when they feed in shallower water: the lit-up belly blends in with sunlight streaming down from above. In darker water, the light attracts smaller animals, which the shark preys upon. It also has big eyes (for a shark) to help it see in the mostly-dark waters of the ocean's twilight zone.
Breaching Great White Shark on the HuntIt's hard to imagine a 2000-pound animal launching itself out of the water while hunting, but the great white shark does just that. This spectacular behavior is called breaching, and great white sharks breach in order to catch fast-moving prey like seals. Swimming fast at the surface, sharks can reach 40 miles per hour and fly 10 feet into the air; however, breaching is relatively rare because the shark has to use so much energy to propel itself.
Hammerhead Shark at SunsetScientists debate the purpose behind these sharks' hammer-shaped heads. A commonly accepted theory is that the shape allows the shark to scan a wider area of the ocean through its sensory organs. Of the eight species of hammerheads, the great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) is the largest, reaching a maximum length of 6.1m (20 ft). Hammerheads are highly sought after for their fins, suffer a very high mortality rate from bycatch, and reproduce only every two years.
Baby sharks in lagoonA shark nursery in a lagoon in the Pacific. Shark nurseries are found mainly in shallow water regions in which the shark pups can grow up while being protected from larger predators.
© Thomas Peschak/Save Our Seas
Tagging Along With Whale SharksThe sea's largest fish has been a mystery until recent decades. Thanks to electronic tags, researchers are uncovering some of the secrets of the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). One tagged animal, dubbed "Rio Lady," swam some 5,000 miles during a span of 150 days. Another dove to a depth of 6,324 feet in the Gulf of Mexico. These sharks are attracting scientists and tourists alike to places like the Yukatan Peninsula.
Flickr user Paul Cowell
Shark EmbryoSharks have young in three different ways. After internal fertilization, some species lay a thick egg case that encloses the shark embryo (seen in the photo here). Most species are ovoviviparous, which means that the shark hatches and develops within the female shark and is born live. A third way (viviparous) is similar to human development, where the young shark grows within the female and gets nutrients from a placental link to the mother.
Flickr User Telemachus
Finned Sharks in South AfricaMillions of sharks are caught each year for their dorsal fins, which are prized for shark fin soup. Top predators like sharks are important to maintaining biodiversity, and their removal can have ripple effects through an ecosystem.
Fiona Ayerst/Marine Photobank