The cookie cutter shark lives around the world and prefers warmer waters near islands. The shark is known for its ability to migrate up from around 2 miles below the ocean’s surface daily. 

The shark is regarded as a parasite due to its habit of biting rounded pieces off of other animals and even non-organic material. It’s classified as a facultative ectoparasite and usually works as an ambush predator. 


Appearance 

The shark is quite small. It can only reach around 22 inches, or 56 centimeters when fully grown. Its body is long and cylindrical. It has a small head with large eyes and a blunt nose. The shark’s body features two small dorsal fins and one large caudal fin. The name “cigar shark” comes from the shape of its body. 

Cookie cutter shark

The shark is darkly colored with photophores, or spots that emit light, on its underside. It also features a dark band around its throat. The shark also has suctorial lips and a pharynx that it uses to cut circular pieces of flesh out of its prey. Its teeth have been compared to a bandsaw in the way that they cut through materials. The shark has somewhere from 30-37 teeth rows in the upper jaw and 25-31 rows in the lower jaw. The number varies depending on the size of the animal. 

A Cookie Cutter Shark head

Credit: Jennifer Strotman, Collections Program

The shark’s luminescence is the strongest of any known shark. Some reports suggest that it can last as long as three hours after the shark has been removed from water. 

Habitat 

The shark lives in all of the earth’s major tropical and warm ocean basins. It is common within the Atlantic, around Brazil, Sierra Leone, southern Angola, South African, Guinea, and more. It has also been captured around Tasmania, New Zealand, and Australia. The shark might also be found around the Hawaiian Islands and eat to the Galápagos. It is often found near islands. 

The shark engages in what is known as a diel vertical migration of around 1.9 miles or 3 kilometers every day. The shark spends the day at around .5-2.3 miles in depth at then rises up to around 270 feet at night. Sometimes, it’s even been spotted at the surface. 

The shark has been known to travel in schools of other cookie cutter sharks. 

The teeth of a Cookie Cutter Shark
The teeth of a Cookie Cutter Shark


Cookie Cutter Shark Diet 

The cookie cutter shark got its name due to its habit of biting circular chunks out of other marine animals as well as into equipment and even into the occasional human being. All ocean animals are at threat from the cookie cutter shark. This includes megamouth sharks, beaked whales, sperm whales, leopard seals, stingrays, tunas, cetaceans, and more. It’s been known to bite undersea cables and even submarines. The shark also eats prey whole, like squid. 

It’s believed that the shark hunts stealthily, likely creeping up on prey rather than actively pursuing them. Scientists believe that the dark collar around its neck evolved as a way to mimic the shape of other fish. The shark attaches itself to predators that approach, thinking they’re about to capture a smaller fish. The rounded wounds left by the cookie cutter shark are between two inches across and 2.8 inches deep. It’s incredibly common to find marine animals with these scars. One study off the coast of Hawaii found that nearly every adult spinner dolphin had at least one scar from the cookie cutter shark. 

Like other sharks, it regularly replaces its teeth. But, unlike other sharks, it sheds entire rows of teeth at a time rather than one tooth at a time. It swallows these old sets of teeth in what scientists believe is an effort to increase their calcium content. 

Cookie Cutter Shark Threats 

The cookie cutter shark lives deep within the ocean, making it uncommon for human beings to come into contact with the marine animal. This means that it’s also rarely at risk from fisheries. Despite this, it is sometimes caught within nets meant for other fish, something known as bycatch. This is most common at night when the shark completes its migration towards the surface. Currently, the IUCN lists the shark as “Least Concern,” the lowest level on their conservation status scale. 


Facts about Cookie Cutter Shark 

  • The shark lives in all of the earth’s major tropical and warm ocean basins.
  • Human beings rarely come into contact with the cookie cutter shark. 
  • It is known for its ability to migrate up from  around 2 miles below the ocean’s surface daily. 
  • The shark’s luminescence is the strongest of any known shark.
  • It sheds entire rows of teeth at a time rather than one tooth at a time.
  • The shark swallows its old teeth. 


FAQs

Do cookie cutter sharks attack humans?

There have only been two cases of a human being attacked by the cookie cutter shark. These were both on human cadavers. The first was a drowning victim and the other was a suicide, according to ABC News. 

Why is it called a cookie cutter shark?

It is called a cookie cutter shark because of the rounded holes it bites out of other animals. Some marine animals, like dolphins and whales, are covered in scars from these small sharks. 

Can a cookie cutter shark bite through a submarine?

Yes, the softer areas of submarines, and other non-organic objects, are at threat from the cookie cutter shark. They’ve also been known to bite into ocean cables. 

Do cookie cutter sharks live in Australia?

Yes. These sharks have been recorded around Australia. This includes Queensland to Tasmania and Western Australia. 

Do cookie cutter sharks lose their teeth?

Yes, like other sharks cookie cutters shed their teeth. But, they do it an entire row at a time rather than losing one tooth at a time. They also swallow these teeth in what scientists believe is an effort to conserve calcium.