Top 10 Most Dangerous Sharks in the World
After studying the Global Shark Attack File, especially the entries over the last 50 years, I have extracted enough information from it to compile a list of the top 10 most dangerous sharks in the world, in terms of unprovoked attacks on humans.
The Global Shark Attack File is a comprehensive database of every documented shark attack, or encounter, in the world and is compiled by the Shark Research Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.
Their up-to-the-minute statistics can be downloaded in the form of a .xls file from here.
GSAF also head up teams of scientists who use photographs of bite-marks and other means to identify the types of sharks involved in all attacks.
While this technology is moving forward at a tremendous rate, the vast majority of shark attacks in the past have never had an identifying shark reported.
It is safe to say that all serious attacks are carried out by sharks over 6 feet in length. The bigger the shark, the more powerful and potentially deadly its bite.
Some of the smaller sharks, too, however, can be counted among the most dangerous, because some of them are more aggressive than others. All sharks have sharp teeth and a strong bite and can inflict a fatal wound, depending on where on the body they bite you.
The top three most dangerous sharks in the world, responsible for 99% of all shark attack fatalities, are big beasts and best avoided if at all possible.
Luckily for us, megalodon sharks became extinct well over a million years before man appeared on the planet, else it would be on this list too!
Reasons why blue and lemon sharks not on top 10 list
- I have seen other types of sharks including the blue shark and the lemon shark on some lists of most dangerous sharks, but have largely discounted them, because in nearly every case, those sharks fought back in self-defence.
- Sharks who bite while on board a boat with a huge hook through their mouths or spear through their bellies, have every right to attack their attackers, in my opinion.
- Several other sharks have bitten their attackers while being finned, and can you blame them?
- Yet more sharks have attacked while being held in captivity, lemon sharks especially. There are several reported cases of lemon shark attacks, all bar one or two, which happened in laboratories or aquariums while their carers or scientists were trying to perform tests on them.
- There are other species of very dangerous sharks who live at the bottom of the deep oceans of the world, and are of no risk to us because we cannot travel that deep.
Top 10 Most Dangerous Sharks
- 12 attacks, 0 fatal
9. Hammerhead Sharks (Sphyrna spp.*)
- 19 attacks, 0 fatal
8. Spinner sharks (Carcharhinus brevipinna)
- 26 attacks, 0 fatal
7. Bronze whaler sharks (Carcharhinus brachyurus)
- 34 attacks on humans, 0 fatal.
6. Blacktip sharks(Carcharhinus limbatus)
- 49 attacks, 0 fatal.
5. Sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus)
- 32 attacks and 1 fatality
4. Oceanic Whitetip Sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus)
- 13 reported attacks, 4 fatal. Oceanic whitetips are normally found in the wide open oceans of the world, and are responsible for the deaths of many shipwrecked mariners and shot-down planes during the war. As there are never any survivors, exact fatalities caused by whitetips cannot be recorded.
3. Bull Sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) - attacked 104 with 33 fatalities.
2. Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier)
- responsible for a total of 142 attacks, 39 fatal.
1. Great White Sharks (Carcharodon carcharias)
- responsible for a total identified cases of 234 attacks on humans, 77 of which proved fatal.
Great White Sharks (Carcharodon carcharias)
Also known as great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death, the great white shark has been immortalized as well as demonized by the movie Jaws.
Shown as a determined predator out to eat humans at every possible opportunity, nothing could be further from the truth.
In reality, the great white is just a stupid great lump of blubber who cannot tell the difference between a tasty seal and a human, until it takes a bite.
Unfortunately, due to its tremendous size and power, that one bite quite often proves fatal.
They can reach 20' or more in length, and weigh a massive 5,000lbs.
The earliest known fossils of the great white shark go back 16 million years on Earth. You would think after all that time it would have developed some sort of brain!
As apex predators (except where orcas reside), they eat pretty much everything edible in the oceans, and are on vulnerable status on the IUCN list of endangered species.
I loved the story of 19 year old South African Geoffrey Kirkham Spence who, in 1976, thrashed about in the water imitating a shark attack victim from Jaws, when a 10' geat white silently approached from behind and bit his torso! You can read about it here.
Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier)
Also known as sea tigers, tiger sharks can reach 18' in length and are the largest member of the Requiem Shark family.
Preferring tropical and subtropical waters, they unfortunately often stay close to the coast in shallow waters and so are encountered by swimmers and surfers.
So-called because of its tiger-like stripes, their colored markings fade as it matures.
Like the great white, tiger sharks are apex predators who will eat anything, including other tiger sharks. Their jaws and serrated teeth are designed to take on prey much larger than themselves, cleanly slicing through bone or tough turtle shells, in much the same way we would eat a cookie.
Their stomachs have been known to contain indigestible objects such as bicycle wheels and old metal license plates, so from this we can deduct that they are not over-burdened with intelligence.
There is no reasoning with something so brainless, so it is probably better to stay out of waters they are known to frequent.
Tiger sharks are classed as near threatened on the IUCN list of endangered species.
Bull Sharks (Carcharhinus leucas)
Also known as the Zambezi shark in Africa and the Nicaragua shark in Nicaragua, the bull shark is often called the pitbull of the sea, due to its determination to hold on to its victim once it takes a bite.
It frequently shakes its victim around, inflicting terminal damage in the process in many instances.
Found in warm coastal, shallow waters in all tropical and subtropical areas of the world, bull sharks are frequently found some distance inland from the mouth of fresh water rivers too.
A member of the Requiem Shark family, bull sharks can reach 11' in length.
Powerful apex predators, they will eat pretty much everything. The only species likely to attack them are crocodiles, tiger and great white sharks, and of course, humans.
Bull sharks are on the near threatened list of the IUCN's database of endangered species.
Oceanic Whitetip Sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus)
Brown Milbert's sandbar shark, brown shark, nigano shark, whitetip whaler, and whitetip shark are all common names for the oceanic whitetip.
A member of the Requiem Shark family, they prefer the wide, deep and warmer oceans of the world, where they tend to stay near the surface despite being many miles from land.
Their fins are longer and more rounded than other shark species, and are identifiable by their distinguished white tipped fins.
They grow to a maximum of 13', and tend to travel alone rather than in packs.
Strangely enough, a shipwreck or a plane crash in the deep oceans will draw huge shoals of them where they egg each other on to a feeding frenzy, leaving no survivors.
Known to ancient mariners as 'sea dogs' for their ship-following habits, oceanic whitetips still follow ocean-going liners today.
An oceanic whitetip was believed to be responsible for the fatal attack on a tourist in the Red Sea at Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt in December 2010.
A popular ingredient of shark fin soup, the Oceanic whitetip is classed as vulnerable on the IUCN list of endangered species.
Sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus)
Also known as the spotted ragged tooth shark, the blue-nurse sand tiger, or the grey nurse shark, sand tiger sharks are members of the Requiem Shark family.
They live in warmer coastal waters worldwide, and are identifiable by their coloring - grey with reddish-brown spots on its back when adult, yellowish spots when juvenile.
Reaching up to 11' in length, it has a pointed head and bulky body.
This is the only known species of shark that can gulp air from the surface, store it in its stomach, and use it for added buoyancy.
A nighttime predator and feeder, this added bouyancy allows it to sneakily creep up on prey in complete silence.
Typical of many sharks, the sand tigers have absolutely no common sense whatsoever, and frequently swallow whole much larger prey than they have any hope of digesting, and as a result suffer internal damage.
While they are generally regarded as harmless to humans (why?), there have been numerous injuries and one death caused by over-excitable and stupid sand tiger sharks over the past 50 years.
It is considered to be vulnerable on the IUCN list of endangered species, but it has to be said that it does not help itself whatsoever when it comes to breeding.
Pregnant sand tiger sharks may have many offspring developing in her two wombs, but ultimately all bar one will be eaten by the strongest or most vicious pup in each uteri, resulting in the live birth of 2 pups each pregnancy.
And one of those probably eats the other as soon as they are born!
Blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus)
No prizes for guessing where it got its name from, the Blacktip shark is a member of the Requiem Shark family, and is known invariably as the blackfin shark, blacktip whaler, common or small blacktip shark, grey shark, and spotfin ground shark.
Commonly reaching about 5' in length, blacktip sharks frequent coastal warm waters in tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
Normally timid, they become excitable in the presence of food (fish) and sometimes bite everything that moves, including people.
They rarely cause severe damage but at the same time, they are not pleasant to be around, just in case.
They are typically grey in color on top, white below and with a distinctive white line running along their upper grey sides. This would be important to know if you failed to notice its black tipped fins.
They typically hunt in groups and can be seen leaping out of the water in states of excitement when large shoals of fish are present.
Blacktip sharks are considered to be on the near threatened grade on the IUCN list of endangered species.
Bronze whaler sharks ( (Carcharhinus brachyurus)
Also known as the copper shark,or narrowtooth shark, the bronze whaler is a member of the Requiem Shark family and is found in tropical, subtropical and temperate waters throughout the world.
Ranging from inshore waters to deeper offshore waters down to 300 feet, bronze whaler sharks can reach 11' in length and can be hard to distinguish from other requiem sharks due to their similar markings.
They eat mainly fish and squid, and quite often attacks humans who are bathing or fishing, causing fairly minor injuries.
An interesting observation has been noted about copper sharks, in that when they hunt in large groups; they form formations to herd the fish shoal into positions that allows a maximum number of them to be eaten by simply swimming through them with their mouths open.
Their numbers are on the near threatened list of the IUCN, and they are slow breeders, with the female of the species not reaching maturity until they are 19 or 20 years old.
Spinner sharks (Carcharhinus brevipinna)
Growing to a length of 10', the spinner shark, yet another member of the infamous Requiem Shark family, can be found in tropical and temperate seas the world over, except, strangely enough, in the US side of the Pacific Ocean.
These fish are very similar to the backtip shark, above, except for the lack of black tips on their fins, except for one on the anal fin.
It gets its name from its feeding habits. When coming across shoals of fish, it attacks from below in a vertically upwards direction, right through the middle of them. At the same time it opens its mouth and snaps, while spinning in a circular direction, thus ensuring as many as possible of the fish enter its mouth.
Sometimes it forgets to stop and spins right out of the water.
It then swallows its prey whole.
Just like the blacktips, spinner sharks become excitable in the presence of food, and have been known to bite spear fishermen while trying to steal their catch.
Their teeth are sharp, but designed for gripping rather than than cutting, but can still deliver a nasty bite, and what's worse, they don't want to let go!
Spinner sharks on the the near threatened list of endangered species.
Hammerhead Sharks (Sphyrna spp.*)
There are nine different types of hammerhead sharks in the family Sphyrna, and just like troublesome neighbours, the whole family gets the blame for the misbehaviour of a few.
The GSAF file does not determine which family member bit who and when, but it is generally recognised that only certain species of hammerhead shark are likely to bite humans.
Those are the scalloped, smooth and great hammerheads. Out of all the recorded attacks, there have been no fatalities.
Hammerhead sharks are endangered because their fins are highly-prized as an Asian delicacy. The scalloped and great hammerhead sharks are labelled endangered, while the smooth hammerhead is vulnerable, on the IUCN list of endangered species.
In Hawaii, hammerheads sharks are a protected species because the people believe they are magical creatures of great power and charm, and as such are highly respected.
Shortfin Mako Sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus)
The least dangerous of our list of top 10 most dangerous sharks in the world are the shortfin mako sharks.
According to the Global Shark Attack File, there have been 47 incidents involving Mako sharks in the last 50 years, none fatal unless you count the fisherman who was dragged overboard and drowned by a hooked mako (he could have let go!)
There are only 12 confirmed reports of bodily injury caused by by shortfin mako sharks, and they were minor.
In nearly all cases they were self-inflicted too.
Shortfin mako, because of their ability to leap 30' up into the air, are highly sought after by game fishermen. Sometimes people get too close and the shark leaps into their boats, causing minor injuries.
There are only two reports of shortfin makos biting surfers and people minding their own business while in the sea, (although they have quite a record of ramming boats, or trying to eat propellers), and they have not been confirmed.
The Sharm-el-Sheikh incident on the Red Sea in 2010 where five people were mauled by sharks, one fatally, were almost certainly all carried out by oceanic whitetips, a much more aggressive breed altogether.
Shortfin mako sharks are on the vulnerable list of the IUCN.
Also, in the last 50 years, we have had many more shark attacks than those listed above, but no doubt carried out by the same species of sharks.
There have been several sea accidents with whole boats going down with the loss of lives, and bodies later recovered showing shark bite marks which may or may not have occurred post mortem.
In 1984, 11 Somalian stowaways were forced to jump overboard at gunpoint into shark infested waters.
In 2006, in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen, 5 Ethiopian refugees were beaten up and thrown overboard where they consumed by sharks.
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