Sharks

Coming in many different shapes, colors, and sizes, sharks are some of the most incredible fish in the sea. They differ from bony fish in numerous ways: their skeleton is made of cartilage instead of bone, they five to seven pairs of gill slits instead of a bony fish’s single pair, and they have rigid fins while bony fishes have flexible fins.

The more than 400 species of sharks are mysterious, yet misunderstood. Unfortunately, their populations are plummeting due to overfishing of sharks for food, including for their valuable fins. Sharks have very slow growth and reproductive rates, which means depleted populations are slow to recover. The loss of these top predators would throw the delicate ecosystem balance into disorder.

You can help protect sharks by eating only sustainable seafood, which is caught in ways that protect habitats and species. All of the seafood served here at SeaWorld — and even the fish fed to Shamu and friends — is purchased from sustainably-managed fisheries.

Want to discover more about sharks, and maybe even touch one? Check out our Behind-the-Scenes guided tours.

Q: Where do sharks live?
SW: Sharks make their home in temperate to tropical seas. Some also live in polar seas or freshwater rivers and lakes.

Q: Are they endangered?
SW: Though there are more than 400 species of sharks, unfortunately a growing number are listed as either threatened or endangered.

Q: What do they eat?
SW: Sharks eat mostly fishes (including other sharks and rays), but also squids, octopuses, and crustaceans. Some larger sharks, such as great white sharks, eat marine mammals. Tiger sharks are one of the few animals that can eat sea turtles. Basking, megamouth, and whale sharks filter-feed on plankton.

Q: How big do they get?
SW: Their size range is amazing. The smallest sharks top out at only 6 to 10 inches, while the largest shark (and the world’s largest fish) is the mammoth 45 foot long whale shark.

Q: Do sharks have to keep swimming to survive?
SW: Not all of them. Some species are able to rest on the ocean floor, opening and closing their mouths to pump water over their gills to respire.