Shark Facts for Kids
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What is a Shark?
A shark is a species of cartilaginous fish. Sharks live and breathe underwater. There are over 500 species of shark.
What do Sharks look like?
All sharks have heads, eyes, nostrils, mouth, a body, tail, and fins.
Most sharks have long, narrow bodies to help them swim quickly through the water.
A sharks nose is often referred to as a snout. Most snouts are long and pointy.
There are 5 types of shark fins: dorsal fin, pectoral fins, pelvic fins, anal fin, and caudal fin.
A shark can have as many as 7 fins and a tail.
A shark’s fins are very important for the shark to survive. Shark fins help keep the shark balance in the water. Without fins, sharks would be able to stay upright in the water. If a shark did not have fins they wouldn’t be able to stay upright in the water. They would roll over and be belly up!
Shark fins help the shark change the direction they are swimming in, they also help the shark to slow down.
Probably the most known or popular shark fin is the dorsal fin. Most sharks have two dorsal fins. The 1st dorsal fin is the one feature commonly associated with sharks, especially in movies where the fin sticks out of the water. The 1st dorsal fin is the fin located on the top of the sharks back. The dorsal fin stops the shark from swaying side to side while swimming. It helps keep the shark balanced.
The 2nd dorsal finis located further down the sharks back and is smaller in size.
Sharks have two pectoral fins. The pectoral fins are the large fins located on the sides of the shark near the front of their body. They kind of resemble what would be the shark’s arms.
The job of the pectoral fins is to steer the shark and protect the shark from sinking.
Sharks have two pelvic fins. They are located on the bottom of the shark close to the tail. The pelvic fins help keep the shark lifted in the water and they also help prevent the shark from sinking.
Sharks have one anal fin. The anal fin is located underneath the shark. It comes after the pelvic fins and it the closest fin to the tail. The anal fin helps prevent the shark from rolling sideways.
The caudal fin is also known as the sharks tail. The caudal fin helps the shark move forward. Different species of sharks have different size and shaped caudal fins.
Sharks do not have scales like other fish. Shark’s skin is made up of denticles. The word denticles mean “little tooth.” A shark’s denticles feel more like sharp teeth rather than scales. They make then shark’s skin feel like sandpaper. It’s very rough and can scratch human skin. Like a human’s teeth, denticles fall out and new ones grow in.
Some sharks release a slimy feeling substance from their skin that helps them swim faster.
Sharks are vertebrates. Vertebrates are living things with a skeleton and a backbone.
Shark skeletons are not made of bone-like humans. They are made out of cartilage. Cartilage is a tough, rubbery, elastic tissue. Humans also have cartilage in their bodies. The cartilage lets sharks easily twist and turn in the water. Sharks wouldn’t be able to move that easily if their skeletons were made out of bone because bone doesn’t allow that type of flexibility.
Warm-Blooded vs Cold-Blooded
Most species of sharks are cold-blooded. Cold-blooded means when a species body temperature changes depending on the temperature around them. If it’s cold, then they are cold and if it is warm, then they are warm. Warm-blooded species bodies are able to regulate their own temperature and make their own body heat. Humans are warm-blooded. Great white sharks and Maco sharks are also warm-blooded.
Sharks have a stomach that can stretch. Their stretchy stomachs allow them to eat a large amount of food in a short amount of time.
Not all sharks eat the same. Different species of shark eat different things.
Large, hunting sharks like the great white and bull shark eat large marine animals such as octopuses, squid, seals, and even other sharks
Smaller species of sharks eat smaller animals such as small fish.
Shark species that are slow swimmers such as angel sharks or nurse sharks eat crabs and shellfish
Sharks like the tiger sharks aren’t picky and have been known to eat anything, even things that aren’t food such as license plates or tin cans that may be floating in the water.
Most sharks do not eat every day. They will fill up and go days even a month without food.
Most species of shark are nocturnal meaning they are more active at night. These sharks will also hunt at night. Some sharks are crepuscular and hunt at dusk.
Sharks can swim silently through the water to sneak up on their prey.
Sharks will use their keen senses to track down prey. Sharks can feel the ripples in the water made from animals nearby.
Sharks are known to bump their prey with the end of the nose or snout to check it out. When they decide to attack some species of shark will shake their prey from side to side to rip it apart.
Some species of shark will give their prey a large bite, then they will swim away and wait until it bleeds to death. After the animal has died, they will come back to eat.
Have you ever heard of the term feeding frenzy? A feeding frenzy is when multiple sharks are attracted to the same food source and rush to eat it at the same time.
Some species of shark such as a Great White have more than one row of teeth, Their teeth like human teeth fall out. Sometimes shark teeth will wash up onshore.
Some species of shark will go through 30,000 teeth in one lifetime.
Most shark teeth are very shark. Some sharks are able to bite their prey in half using their sharp teeth.
Some species of shark do not have sharp teeth at all and instead have small flat teeth.
How do sharks breathe underwater?
Sharks need oxygen to survive, just like humans.
Sharks breathe differently from humans.
Sharks use their gills to take in oxygen from the water. Most sharks have 5 gills. Some sharks species also have spiracles behind their eyes. Spiracles are breathing hole that is also used to bring in oxygen from the water.
Sharks have a lot of muscles, double the amount of humans.
About 85% of a shark’s body weight is muscle.
Some people believe that sharks are blind. This is not true. Sharks actually have really good eye-sight and can even see in color.
Some sharks have a third eye. This third eye is called a pineal and is located under their skin in the middle of their forehead. This third eye isn’t really good for seeing, however it can sense daylight.
Sharks have an excellent sense of smell. Some species can sense the smallest drop of blood in the ocean up to three miles away. Sharks use their sense of smell to find prey.
Sharks can also hear. They have very tiny ear-hole behind their eyes. They can hear sounds from 650ft away.
Sharks can also sense tiny amounts of electricity given off by other animals.
Sharks are smart and have large brains. Hammerhead sharks are the smartest species of sharks.
Males vs Females
Which do you think are bigger females or males? Most female sharks are actually bigger than male sharks.
They tend to have longer bodies and weigh a quarter more than males.
Many female sharks have thicker skin than male sharks. Scientists believe this may be because when a male shark likes a female shark he will bite her. Female sharks may have thicker skin to protect them from the bite.
Female shark often has babies once every couple of years.
A baby shark is called a pup. Some species of sharks lay eggs and other species of sharks give birth to baby sharks. Let’s find out more!
Approximately 100 species of sharks lay eggs. These kinds of sharks are called oviparous sharks. Some of these species include Zebra Sharks, Dogfish Sharks, and Bullhead Sharks.
A mother shark will lay her eggs in a safe place so they can develop and grow into a baby shark.
Sometimes shark egg sacks wash up onshore. The empty sacks are sometimes called mermaid purses.
The baby shark will continue to grow in the egg sack for 7-10 months. Then it will hatch.
About 70% of sharks give birth to baby sharks. This species of sharks are called viviparous sharks. Some of these sharks include Hammerhead Sharks, Blue Sharks, and Bull Sharks.
Baby sharks can grow inside the mommy shark between 1-2 years depending on the species.
Some species of shark give birth to one baby shark or pup at a time.
Other species such as Sand Sharks and Tiger Sharks give birth to two sharks.
It doesn’t stop at two baby sharks. There are certain species of sharks that give birth to a lot of babies. Blue Sharks can give birth to up to 135 baby sharks and Whale Sharks can give birth to 300 baby sharks at once!
The Life of a Shark
When a baby shark or pup is born they have a full set of teeth.
Once they are born baby sharks are usually on their own. Most species do not stay with their mothers.
It takes 20 years for a shark to become an adult
Sharks can live for a long time. Some species of sharks will live 25-30 years. Other species such as a Whale Shark or Dogfish Shark can live 100 years!
So, how can a scientist tell how long a shark lived? Have you heard of people counting the rings of a tree trunk to tell how old the tree is? Well, scientists have a similar test for seeing how old a shark is. Scientists will count the growth rings located on the shark’s spine to tell how old he/she is/
Fun Facts about Sharks
The largest shark to ever exist is the megalodon. Megalodons are now extinct.
The largest living shark is the whale sharks, basking sharks, and megamouth sharks.
The fastest shark is the shortfin mako shark which can swim 40-45 miles per hour. The Great White shark can reach speeds of 25-35 miles per hour.
The slower species of sharks include nurse sharks, angel sharks, and carpet sharks.
Sharks swim great distances. Sharks are migrating species meaning they move around from place to place usually from season to season.
The blue sharks make the longest migrations. They can swim as far as 9,000 miles in just one year.