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Shark Identification Guide

Sharks have been swimming in our oceans for 450 million years, so isn’t it time you got to know them a little better?

The great white may be the A-lister, with many a Hollywood horror film to their name, but did you know there are over 400 other known species of shark out there?  From the tiny six-inch dwarf lantern to the whopping whale shark, there’s plenty of variety on offer for the curious shark spotter. So if you want to know more about identifying these undersea superstars, get your teeth into our handy, or should we say finny, guide. 

Where can you spot sharks?

Sharks live everywhere. You’ll find these feisty fish in every ocean on our planet, including around the UK’s coastlines. And some, such as the bull shark, have adapted to live in shallow freshwater environments such as estuaries and rivers. Of course, you’ll also find several species of sharks prowling around Deep Sea World’s Underwater Safari.

Hang on, did you say sharks were a type of fish?

Yep. Sharks are actually classed as a type of fish. Though mother nature has buffed them out a bit, to give them that predatory edge. For a start, they don’t have bones. Their skeleton is made from cartilage, which is the same bendy stuff your nose is made out of. This makes them lightweight, flexible and capable of turning and twisting in the water extremely quickly. Which is one of the reasons why sneaking up on a shark from behind isn’t a great idea…  
If you ever get close enough to stroke a shark, you’ll find they don’t have shiny scales, like your typical fish. They’re covered in something called dermal denticles which are smooth, and make them capable of swimming ten times faster than your average human.
Sharks also have eyelids, which normal fish don’t. These aren’t used for blinking though, but protecting the shark’s eyes whilst attacking prey. Incidentally, the great white doesn’t have eyelids, and simply rolls their eyes back into their heads as they attack. So if you’re ever eye to eye with a great white, be thankful if you can see their pupils…

How can I identify the biggest sharks?

For eager shark watchers, it’s actually easier to spot the big boys, because they tend to hunt closer to the surface, whilst the smaller sharks prefer to prowl the ocean floor. Apart from size, you can normally tell a surface shark by their darker eyes, which act as natural sunglasses to shield their vision from the sun’s glare.
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See the sharks at Deep Sea World

Fancy putting your shark-spotting skills to the test? Well you can at Deep Sea World, where you’ll spot some of the sharks mentioned in our guide, and can even get nose to snout with our sand tiger shark and some of his friends in our shark diving experience!
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