Sharks have gotten a bad rap over the years, many thanks to horror films such as Jaws that depict them as savage, blood-hungry, lightning-fast killers.
While this is largely a misrepresentation of their true nature, sharks are apex predators, and unmatched hunters of the ocean when it comes to speed and power.
Some sharks can reach incredible speeds, one of which is the Short Fin Mako shark – the fastest shark in the world, which can swim with bursts over 40 mph.
Although many sharks compete for the fastest swimmers, here’re 8 of the fastest sharks in the world and how you can spot them.
8. Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
Max speed: 25mph
Average Size: 12 – 18 feet
The Great Hammerhead shark is a bottom feeder and loves to make its meal from stingrays, crustaceans, and small fish.
The shark uses its wide field of vision to spot prey on the ocean floor and then pins it down to the floor or against a hard surface with its wide head.
Although these sharks may not require great speeds to catch their prey, short bursts of power come in handy.
These sharks can reach a top speed of 25 mph, which may seem more than needed, but they are, after all, kings of the ocean.
7. Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas)
Max speed: 25mph
Average Size: 7 – 11 feet
Bull sharks can be found in coastal regions across most of the globe. These sharks are not only fast swimmers, reaching top speeds of 25 mph, but they are one of the few shark species that can survive for long periods in freshwater.
These sharks have been known to swim miles up rivers in search of food and breeding grounds.
Not only do these sharks live in both fresh and saltwater, but they are also known to be the most aggressive shark species toward humans.
6. Common Thresher Shark (Alopias vulpinus)
Max Speed: 30mph
Average Size: 10 feet
The Common Thresher shark is another speedy underwater creature that can reach speeds of up to 30 mph.
Also known as the Fox shark, which was first named by Aristotle in the book Animalia for being intelligent like a fox.
Their common thresher-looking tail, although aesthetically interesting, serves more of a purpose than simply swimming.
Common threshers are known to use their tails to herd and stun fish but don’t worry, these fast sharks don’t pose a risk to humans. Just don’t go poking one.
5. Grey Reef Shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos)
Max speed: 31mph
Average Size: 4 – 5 feet
Like many of the world’s sharks, much is unknown about the Grey Reef shark, and although it’s a well-known species, there is a lack of verified information about how fast they can swim.
There have been reports of the shark reaching a top burst speed of approximately 31 mph; however, its top cruising speed is much slower, at about 25 mph.
Found at depths of around 200ft in the waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Grey Reef sharks are known as some of the most aggressive shark species.
That said, these are relatively small sharks, reaching a max size of 8.3ft, and when left undisturbed, don’t pose much of a risk to humans.
4. Great White (Carcharodon carcharias)
Max speed: 35mph
Average Size: 11 – 16 feet
Of the misunderstood fish in the ocean, the Great White seems to have made a name for itself as the most feared and dangerous of them all.
With capabilities of growing to 20 ft (6 m) and reaching maximum burst speeds of up to 35 mph, there’s no wonder these ocean wonders make the knees of so many surfers shake.
Great whites are global fish and can migrate over 1000 km in less than a year, spanning regions from Hawaii to South Africa and the northwest coast of Australia.
3. Salmon Shark (Lamna ditropis)
Max speed: 35mph
Average Size: 6 – 8 feet
The Salmon Shark is commonly regarded as one of the fastest sharks in the ocean. Reports of this shark reaching speeds of up to 50 mph have been recorded; however, these are not verified and are likely exaggerations.
Other reports claim Salmon sharks can reach a maximum speed of between 35 mph and 46 mph; however, there is no reliable recorded data available to public access that can confirm these reports. Furthermore, these top speeds are not well maintained and occur only in short bursts.
That said, the Salmon Shark is regarded as one of the top hunters of the ocean and an apex predator in its habitat.
2. Blue Shark (Prionace glauca)
Max speed: 43mph
Average Size: 10 feet
Known as the “wolves of the sea,” thanks to their tendency to roam in large groups, the Blue Shark, like most sharks, is fairly passive, but when hunting, can reach bursts of up to 43 mph.
Blue sharks are highly migratory and spend their time roaming the temperate and tropical waters of the world. They are curious creatures and can often be found exploring shipwrecks, crevices, and caves.
These sharks have a wide habitat range and can be spotted on the coastline as well as far out at sea, both on surface level and down to depths of 350 meters.
1. Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
Max speed: 46mph
Average Size: 13 feet
Coming in at number one, the fastest shark in the ocean is the Short Fin Mako shark. This speedy beast generally swims at a casual 30mph but has been recorded reaching speeds of 46 mph when performing short bursts.
That said, there are reports, although anecdotal, that put the shark’s top speed somewhere between 50 and 60 mph.
The Shortfin Mako makes its home in the warmer temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, where they spend most of their time away from the shoreline in temperatures between 61-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
This speedy shark has a long slender body covered in metallic blue scales and a pointed nose which makes it easily distinguishable.
Does water temperature affect how fast a shark can swim?
Sharks that live in warmer waters tend to be faster swimmers than those that make their homes in the cold. This is because sharks are cold-blooded and require external factors to regulate their body temperatures. Sharks that live in warmer waters, therefore, have increased metabolisms which allow them to move at faster speeds.
Are there any fish that are faster than sharks?
Although sharks make up some of the fastest fish in the ocean, there remains to be a faster species. Swordfish have been known to reach speeds of up to 60 mph, which can easily outpace the fastest shark in a race.
Are the fastest sharks a threat to humans?
Contrary to the belief of many, sharks do not pose a major threat to humans, whether they are small or large, slow or fast. Sharks are generally passive creatures, just the same as other fish; however, when they are provoked or pressed for a food source, their temperaments can quickly change.
Are the fastest shark populations threatened by human activities?
Many of the world’s fastest sharks are threatened by humans and our activities. Through overfishing, poaching, bycatch, and habitat destruction, many of the ocean’s sharks, including the Shortfin mako shark, have been put on the endangered list.