Types of Sharks

There are many different types of sharks.

In fact, they come in so many shapes and sizes you would be hard pushed to recognise some of them as sharks.

That said, although the details may vary, they do all share certain characteristics.

Shark Orders

Types of Sharks - Classification

Sharks belong to the class Chondrichthyes, or cartilaginous fish. This means that they have a skeleton made from cartilage rather than bone. Cartilaginous fish are divided into two subclasses, Elasmobranchii and Holocephali.

We’re interested in the Elasmobranchs as this class contains the sharks, along with rays and skates. The class Holocephali contains chimeras.

Elasmobranchs (meaning plate- or ribbon-like gills) are divided into orders. Each order contains several types of sharks divided further into families and species. Rays and skates belong to the order Rajiformes while sharks belong to the following:

  • Carcharhiniformes, or Ground Sharks – Members of this order have the following characteristics in common: They have a nictitating membrane which can be closed to protect the eye, the mouth is set behind the front of the eyes, they have 5 gill slits, an anal fin and 2 dorsal fins, eg. Silvertip.
Ground Sharks
  • Heterodontiformes, or Bullhead Sharks, also have 5 gill slits, an anal fin and 2 dorsal fins. They also have dorsal spines present, eg. Port Jackson.
Bullhead Sharks
  • Hexanchiformes, or Cow and Frilled Sharks, have 6 or 7 gill slits, an anal fin and only one dorsal fin, eg. Sixgill Cowshark.
Cow Sharks
  • Lamniformes, or Mackerel Sharks. Like the Carcharhiniformes, Lamniformes have a mouth that is set behind the front of the eyes however, unlike them, they have no nictitating membrane. They also have 5 gill slits, an anal fin and 2 dorsal fins, eg. Sandtiger.
Mackerel Sharks
  • Orectolobiformes, or Carpet Sharks, have a mouth set well in front of the eyes. They also have 5 gill slits, an anal fin and 2 dorsal fins, eg. Spotted Wobbegong.
Carpet Sharks
  • Pristiophoriformes, or Sawsharks, have 5 or 6 gill slits, no anal fin and 2 dorsal fins. They also have a long saw-shaped snout, hence the name, eg. Sixgill Sawshark.
  • Squaliformes, or Dogfish Sharks, have 5 gill slits, no anal fin and 2 dorsal fins with dorsal fin spines, eg. Piked Dogfish.
Dogfish Sharks
  • Squatiniformes, or Angel Sharks, have a flattened body, 5 gill slits, no anal fin, and 2 dorsal fins, eg. Australian Angelshark.
Angel Sharks

This is a very broad overview of sharks. We’ll be looking at individual species in more detail as this site grows. Please keep checking our ‘What’s New’ page for regular updates.

Return to World of Sharks from Types of Sharks

Recent Articles

  1. Thresher Sharks

    Aug 27, 14 10:51 AM

    Thresher sharks are unmistakable with that huge upper lobe on the caudal fin. Let's find out more about them.

    Read More

  2. Sharkwater

    Aug 14, 14 12:42 PM

    Sharkwater is a documentary by Rob Stewart highlighting the plight of the sharks in our oceans.

    Read More

  3. Natural Cleaners

    Aug 13, 14 08:57 AM

    Natural cleaners and homemade skincare products are not only better for the environment, they're better for you and your family.

    Read More