Photos: Meet the Biggest Shark Species Swimming in the Oceans - Oceana USA
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August 13, 2014

Photos: Meet the Biggest Shark Species Swimming in the Oceans

Do you think you can name the largest shark species swimming in our oceans? Great white sharks probably come to mind first, but it turns out that those behemoths aren’t actually the largest out of the hundreds of existing shark species.

These cartilaginous fish have been navigating the world’s oceans for roughly 450 million years—even before the dinosaurs—so they’re naturally worthy of celebrating. 

Take a look below to learn more about the top five biggest sharks swimming in our oceans.  

5. Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)

(Photo: Willy Volk / Flickr Creative Commons)

This wide-ranging shark gets its name from the black spots and vertical bars that run along its body. Tiger sharks can exceed 18 feet in length and weigh 2,000 pounds.

4. Greenland Shark (Somniosus microcephalus)

(Photo: NOAA Photo Library / Flickr Creative Commons)

These sharks are typically found in North Atlantic and Arctic waters, and are known to be sluggish since they swim in such cold waters. Greenland sharks can reach 21 to 24 feet in length. 

3. Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

(Photo: Scubaben / Flickr Creative Commons)

Great white sharks have been sensationalized in the media as a deathly, aggressive species. In reality, these sharks are apex predators that are crucial to ocean ecosystems. They can grow up to 20 feet, and weigh up to 5,000 pounds.

2. Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus)

(Photo: Mass. Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs / Flickr Creative Commons)

Most known for its enormous mouth for filter feeding, this large species swims in temperate and boreal waters throughout the world’s oceans. It can reach a staggering 40 feet in length.

1. Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)

(Photo: Tim Calver / Oceana)

Whale sharks are both the largest sharks and largest fish in the oceans. Stretching to a massive 60 feet long, these gentle giants swim in warm waters throughout the world’s oceans and feed on plankton. National Geographic equates their size as being on par with a school bus.

Close runner-ups that didn’t make the top five list include great hammerheads, with one sighting at 20 feet long, and Pacific sleeper sharks, which can reach 20 feet in length.

Stay tuned for more informative Shark Week posts throughout the week!