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Top 3 Shark Attack Species

Shark Species Most Likely to Attack


What type of sharks are most likely to attack? Of the hundreds of shark species, there are 3 most often implicated in unprovoked shark attacks on humans, largely because of their size and tremendous jaw power. Learn more about these three species, and how you can prevent a shark attack.

1. White Shark

Great White Shark Great White Shark
Keith Flood/E+/Getty Images
White sharks, also known as great white sharks, are the #1 shark species that cause unprovoked shark attacks on humans. These sharks are the species made infamous by the movie Jaws.

According to the International Shark Attack File, white sharks were responsible for 403 shark attacks from 1580-2010. One hundred eight-two of these were unprovoked, and of these, 65 were fatal.

Great whites are about 10-15 feet long on average, and they can weigh up to about 4,200 pounds. Their coloration might make them one of the more easily-recognizable large sharks - they have a steel gray back and white underside, and large black eyes.

White sharks generally eat marine mammals such as pinnipeds and toothed whales, and occasionally sea turtles. They tend to investigate their prey by surprise attack, and release prey that is unpalatable. A white shark attack on a human, therefore, isn't always fatal.

2. Tiger Shark

Tiger Shark / Armando F. Jenik, Getty Images
Armando F. Jenik / Getty Images

Tiger sharks get their name from the dark bars and spots that run along their side. They have a dark gray, black or bluish-green back and a light underside. They are a large shark, and are capable of growing up to about 18 feet in length and a weight of about 2,000 pounds.

Tiger sharks are #2 on the list of sharks most likely to attack. The International Shark Attack File lists the tiger shark as responsible for 157 shark attacks, 63 of which were unprovoked (and 27 of those were fatal).

Tiger sharks will eat just about anything, although their preferred prey includes sea turtles, rays, fish (including bony fish and other shark species), sea birds, cetaceans (i.e., dolphins), squid, and crustaceans.

3. Bull Shark

Bull sharks are large sharks, prefer shallow waters less than 100 feet deep and are often found in murky waters. This is a perfect recipe for shark attacks, as bull sharks often exist where humans do.

The International Shark Attack File lists bull sharks as the species with the third-highest number of unprovoked shark attacks, with 59 unprovoked attacks (25 fatal) and 26 provoked attacks from 1580-2010.

Bull sharks grow to a length of about 11.5 feet and can weigh up to about 500 pounds. Females are larger on average than males. Bull sharks have gray back and sides, a white underside, large first dorsal fin and pectoral fins, and small eyes for their size (another reason why they may confuse humans with more tasty prey).

Although they eat a wide variety of prey types, humans aren't really on the bull sharks' "preferred prey" list. Their target prey is usually fish (both bony fish, and sharks and rays). They will also eat crustaceans, sea turtles, cetaceans (such as dolphins), and squid.

4. Prevent a Shark Attack

Preventing shark attacks involves some common sense, and a little knowledge of shark behavior. To avoid a shark attack, don't swim alone, during dark or twilight hours, near fishermen, or too far offshore. Also, don't swim wearing shiny jewelry. Click here for more tips.
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