Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Fish: Sharks
atlantic sharpnose shark found off the coast of FloridaAtlantic Sharpnose Shark (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae) Atlantic sharpnose sharks get their name from a characteristically long snout, which is longer than the width of the mouth. English language common names are Atlantic sharpnose shark, Newfoundland shark, sharp-nosed shark, and white shark. The Atlantic sharpnose shark is a small shark that attains a maximum size of 1.2 meters (4 feet). It has a long snout and labial folds around its mouth. The triangular smooth edged teeth are similar on both the upper and lower jaws. The Atlantic sharpnose shark can be brown, olive-gray or blue-gray turning to white on the underside. Adults may have some white spots and smaller individuals tend to have black edged dorsal and caudal fins. This shark consumes shrimp, mollusks and small fishes. This small shark is found in the coastal waters of South Carolina, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico where it is a year round resident.

bonehead shark found off the coast of FloridaBonnethead Shark (Tetrapturuspfluegeri)  The average Bonnethead shark (also known as the Shovelhead shark) is a small, common hammerhead shark with a smooth, rounded head.The Bonnethead shark is harmless to people; it is a timid shark.  It is a harmless, timid shark that is gray-brown above and lighter on the underside with short pectoral fins.  The average Bonnethead shark averages about 3.3 feet long. The Bonnethead shark has a varied diet. The average Bonnethead shark has small, sharp teeth in the front of the mouth (for grabbing soft prey) and flat, broad molars in the back (for crushing hard-shelled prey).  It eats both hard-shelled prey (like crustaceans and mollusks) and soft prey (like small fish), and has a variety of teeth to eat all these animals. Bonnetheads are found in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans, in the surf zone, reefs, on sandy bottoms and in estuaries. Large schools of Bonnethead sharks migrate to warm water in the winter and cooler water in the summer.

shortfin mako shark found off the coast of FloridaShortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) The shortfin mako shark is a sleek spindle shaped shark with a long conical snout. This shark has short pectoral fins and a crescent shaped caudal (tail) fin. There is a distinct caudal keel on the caudal base. Its second dorsal fin is much smaller than the first. The teeth are are slender and slightly curved with no lateral cusps, and are visible even when the mouth is closed. There is marked counter shading on this shark: dorsally it is a metallic indigo blue while ventrally it is white. The shortfin mako can grow to lengths of 3.9 meters (13 feet). There is still some uncertainty about its life-span, but it is suspected to reach ages of between 11-23 years. As one of the fastest sharks in the ocean, this powerful shark can attain burst swimming speeds of up to 22 mph and can leap clear of the water to heights of up to 20 feet. These qualities have made this species a sought after sport fish in some parts of its range. The shortfin mako feeds mainly upon bony fishes including mackerels, tunas, bonitos and swordfish, but may also eat other sharks, porpoises and sea turtles. Shortfin mako sharks live in tropical and temperate offshore waters. They are a pelagic species that occur from the surface down to depths of 490 feet. This shark is seldom found in waters colder than 16 degrees Celsius. The shortfin mako is found worldwide. In the western Atlantic it can be found from Argentina and the Gulf of Mexico to Browns Bank off of Nova Scotia.

sandbar shark found off the coast of FloridaSandbar Shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus) Sometimes called a Brown Shark because of its brownish color, the Sandbar Shark has a massive set of teeth that are triangular, serrated and razor sharp. It is one of the biggest coastal sharks in the world, and is closely related to the dusky shark, the bignose shark, and the bull shark. Its dorsal fin is triangular and very high, and weighs as much as 18% of the shark's whole body. Sandbar sharks usually have heavy-set bodies and rounded snouts that are shorter than the average shark's snout. Their upper teeth have broadly uneven cusps with sharp edges. Its second dorsal fin and anal fin are close to the same height. Sandbar sharks can grow to about 7 feet long. Female sandbar sharks can live as long as 21 years and males can live to 15 years. The sandbar shark is both a predator and a scavenger; feeding chiefly near the bottom on fish and shellfish. The sandbar shark migrates long distances,  in the western Atlantic they range from Massachusetts to Brazil. The sandbar shark, true to its nickname, is commonly found over muddy or sandy bottoms in shallow coastal waters such as bays, estuaries, harbors, or the mouths of rivers, but it also swims in deeper waters.

scalloped hammerhead shark found off the coast of FloridaScalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) The scalloped hammerhead shark belongs to the large hammerhead species, and like all representatives of this family, has the typically formed "hammer" consisting of a central dent and an arched front edge (hence the name). Another typical characteristic is the free end tip of the second dorsal fin which almost reaches the tail fin. Their coloring is mainly olive, bronze or light brown with a white belly. The edges of the fins are usually darker on young animals but becomes lighter as they grow older. Mature females can reach a length of more than 4 meters, the average length is, however, less.  This hammerhead species feeds mostly on fish such as sardines, herring and mackerels, occasionally also on invertebrates such as octopuses. Large scalloped hammerhead sharks also eat small-sized shark species such as the Atlantic sharpnose shark. Scalloped hammerhead sharks are found practically around the world in the coastal regions of tropical, subtropical and moderate climate zones. 
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