Deadliest Sharks in the Ocean

Serial Killers of the Sea

Many viewers can't wait for early July, when we can tune into the Discovery Channel's Shark Week! Almost everyone is fascinated by these sleek, stealthy, killing machines, and though humans are not their natural prey, there have been nearly 1000 recorded attacks on humans across all species of sharks worldwide. Here is a list of some of the deadliest sharks known to man.

Hammerhead Sharks

With lengths up to 20 ft and a uniquely shaped head, the hammerhead may look odd, but is one of the deadliest sharks in the ocean. As of 2013 hammerheads had attacked 34 people and killed one. While the hammerhead can be found in waters across the globe, they seem most highly concentrated around islands off the coast of Columbia; south and eastern Africa; Costa Rica and Hawaii. Known to swim in schools during the day, the hammerhead prefers solitary hunting after dark. While attacks on humans are relatively rare, they do occur, however the hammerhead is far more dangerous amongst its own and has been known to eat other hammerheads, including its own offspring.

Due to its commercial value, several species of hammerheads have been placed on a list of endangered species and now enjoy certain licensing and regulatory protections.

Hammerhead Shark
Hammerhead Shark

Blacktip Sharks

At nearly half the size of a hammerhead, the blacktip shark is just as deadly, having racked up 41 attacks and one fatality. They prefer warm tropical and subtropical waters and are typically found in the shallows. They prefer to prey on schools of small fish, which is likely due to their diminutive frames relative to other sharks. Though they don’t routinely attack humans, they nevertheless are responsible for more attacks on humans off the coast of Florida than any other species of shark. Fortunately, attacks are rarely life threatening. Two interesting facts of blacktip sharks: (1) they leap out of the water while feeding and will often spin 3-4 times in the air before landing and (2) if males are absent, females are capable of asexual reproduction, ensuring the perpetuation of the species.

Blacktip Shark
Blacktip Shark

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

This is one of the ocean’s slower moving sharks, but don’t let its lumbering speed fool you. This is one deadly predator. It is thought to be involved in more feeding frenzies than any other species, including the great white. Due to its size and slow speed, it has evolved as an opportunistic predator. It is impossible to accurately pinpoint how many fatalities the whitetip is responsible for because it often hunts amidst shipwrecks and airplane crash sites, picking off dozens or more at one time.

Oceanic Whitetip
Oceanic Whitetip

Shortfin Mako Shark

The shortfin mako is of the same family as the great white, though not quite as deadly. They are the fastest species of shark in the ocean and have the highest recorded vertical leap despite their impressive size of up to 15 feet and nearly one ton. They seem to like a bit of crunch in their diet as preferred meals include cephalopods, tuna, sea turtles and mackerels. Like the great white, the mako shark stalks its prey from below then races upwards before launching its deadly blitz attack. Shortfin makos are known to have attacked 45 people, at least 20 boats and have been responsible for 3 fatalities. The whitetip prefers large expanses of water that are deep yet remain 64 and 82 degrees F.

Shortfin Mako
Shortfin Mako

Tiger Shark

Named for its striped skin and ferocious demeanor, the tiger shark is one of the planet’s deadliest creatures. Known to be responsible for 155 attacks and 29 fatalities, this killing machine is the stuff of legend. It does not have a discriminating palate rather, it has been known to eat not only other marine life, but also tires, apparel, pets, and bottles. In one instance, an entire horse head was reportedly found among a tiger shark’s stomach contents! It prefers to hunt off the coast of Australia and Hawaii, and is second only to the great white in human fatalities. It prefers to hunt alone and mainly stalks its prey at night. They are particularly aggressive between September and November while migrating around the Hawaiian islands to give birth.

Tiger Shark
Tiger Shark

Bull Shark

At an impressive 11 feet in length, the bull shark is far from the largest predator in the sea, but it can be very deadly. The females of this species are typically larger than the males. Due to its territorial nature, the bull shark is known to attack anything that it perceives as a threat, and that includes humans. It has plenty of opportunity to come into contact with humans because it prefers shallow, coastal waters. One unique attribute of the bull shark is that it can survive in fresh water and has been known to travel up rivers and into lakes to attack its prey. They can be found worldwide including inboth the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, as well as the Indian Ocean and various rivers and estuaries. The bull shark has been responsible for at least 104 attacks and 26 fatalities, though the number could actually be much higher. As the bull shark often lives of the coast of many third world countries, and in places one might not expect (e.g. fresh water) the attacks may often go unreported or may be reported as having been at the jaws of another predator. The bull shark as an unusual defense mechanism. If being sought after by another predator, the bull shark will often regurgitate its food to distract predators before escaping.

Bull Shark
Bull Shark

Great White Sharks

With over 400 documented attacks on humans and 74 fatalities, the great white shark is granddaddy of them all. They can reach lengths of up to 2 feet long and weigh over three tons! Their jaws have evolved into bone-crushing, steel death traps with teeth measuring up to three inches in length. They are capable of puncturing humans to death even if that was not their intent. Every ocean on earth is home to the great white, though they prefer waters with temperatures between 54 and 75 degrees F. The only known predator of the great white shark, aside from humans, is the orca. But it may be difficult to stalk a great white as they can detect electrical fields in the water, generated by movement, of half a billionth of a volt. The great white is a very efficient hunter. Like the shortfin mako shark, the great white attacks its prey by jetting up from beneath them, often catapulting themselves out of the water with impressive vertical leaps that seem to defy their great size.

Great White Shark
Great White Shark

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