Ahoy! When someone says the word shark, most people think of an enormous, terrifying, man-eating underwater sea creature… Basically, they’re imagining Jaws. But in fact, sharks come in all shapes, sizes and colours (and some of them are rather cute)!
Here, have a look at some of the planet’s weirdest sharks:
Longnose sawshark | Around Australia
Our first shark is the longnose sawshark, the Pinocchio of the shark world (“I’m a real shark!”)
Longnose sawshark pups are born during winter in shallow coastal areas. At birth, the long teeth which protrude from this species’ noses are folded back, possibly to make the procedure easier on the mother. Within hours of birth, the teeth become erect, and later, the smaller teeth grow in between the larger ones. When adult, their teeth vary in size, with smaller teeth in between the larger teeth. If undamaged, the rostrum (or “nose”, as we’d call it) has 19 to 21 enlarged teeth on each side of the “saw”!
Wobbegong shark | Around Australia and Indonesia
Wobbegong are highly patterned, flat sharks that can easily hide among the sea floor. Wobbegong is the common name given to the 12 species of carpet sharks in the family Orectolobidae. They have a powerful jaw and will bite if provoked. They might be known as carpet sharks but, with jaws like that, I don’t think I’ll be fitting a wobbegong carpet any time soon!
The word wobbegong is believed to come from an Australian Aboriginal language, meaning “shaggy beard”, referring to the growths around the mouth of the shark of the western Pacific, but its exact meaning is unknown.
Thresher sharks | Around North America and northeast Asia
The muscular thresher shark, also called the “thrasher shark”, possesses a distinctive large tail that resembles the arc of a rainbow. The tail is so large that it accounts for 33% of the shark’s total body weight, meaning that the tail alone may weigh up to 767 pounds!
The thresher shark can swim at high speeds in short bursts and may even leap high out of the water if threatened or provoked from above. Thresher sharks typically catch prey by swimming through schools of fish while whipping their tails, then retracing their paths to snap up any stunned or killed fish. Poor little mites!
Cookiecutter shark | Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
My, look at those gnashers! Relative to its body size, the cookiecutter shark, which lives in the temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, has the largest teeth of all sharks. It uses them to take round chunks out of larger marine creatures – their trademark bites can be seen on large fish and whales of the deep ocean. Cookiecutter sharks have even been recorded trying to take a bite out of submarines!
Their name is rather misleading, as it’s clear these beasts would rather demolish flesh than a pack of Maryland cookies!
Frilled shark | Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
The frilled shark has been called everything from a sea serpent to a real-life Loch Ness Monster in places where it lives, such as southeast Australia, New Zealand, southeast Asia, West Africa, Chile and the Caribbean.
The frilled shark (or eel shark) has a long slender body with an elongated tail fin, which gives it an almost eel-like appearance, and can grow up to six to seven feet in length. This shark has six pairs of large gill slits, whereas most sharks have five.
The gills are surrounded by frilly margins of skin, hence the “frilled shark”. Its snout is short while the head is snake-like. The lower jaw is long, with the mouth almost at the tip of the snout rather than under the head. When I looked at this shark all I could think was what an awesome bottle opener it’d make…
Goblin shark | The ocean somewhere!
The goblin shark is my number one weird looking shark. It has only been seen about 50 times since its discovery in 1897. Maybe it knows it’s ugly!
The goblin shark is a rare species of deep-sea shark. Sometimes called a “living fossil”, it is the only existing representative of the Mitsukurinidae family, which has a heritage of up to 125 million years.
They’re definitely the most uniquely-shaped shark I’ve come across! In fact, some people who’ve seen them in the water report seeing sharks that were “disabled” and “disfigured”! They assume this is some type of species that has been born with genetic concerns or that has been mangled by another creature living in the water.