Sharks belong to one huge extended family and each member shares certain key features. There are over 530 species of sharks. The biggest can grow over 15m long and the smallest can fit in a small tea cup. Understanding the difference between species is important for safe interactions. Different species of sharks have different behavior based on their diet, routines, and living environment.
Let's look closer to the second part of the shark species we encounter on our expeditions:
This shark has many extraordinary characteristics making it easy to distinguish from any other shark. Tiger shark is one of the largest sharks, it commonly reaches a length of 3,2 - 4,2 meters and weighs over 385-635 kilos. It has a broad, flat squared head with a snout shorter than the width of its mouth and a slender body. The coloration of a Tiger shark has a distinctive color pattern. The body is blue-gray with dark gray stripes.
They are consummate scavengers, with excellent senses of sight and smell and a nearly limitless menu of diet items. Tiger sharks are considered a near threatened species due to finning and fishing by humans.
Tiger sharks are at the top of the shark hierarchy thanks to their size. They are solitary species which means that they spent most of the time alone and gather only for mating or feeding events. When attracted to the area by food, other smaller sharks usually disappear just before a tiger shark approaches. They avoid conflict and are usually slow-moving. In areas where they are not used to people or divers, they appear very shy and rarely approach (when not attracted by food). Tiger sharks are very curious about people and might approach them very closely. They are known for bumping into the camera equipment of divers. Tiger sharks are one of few species which approach to people without turning away. That is why they must be sometimes redirected or deterred from divers by professional shark guides. Tiger sharks are safe to interact with only with professional guides with you in the water.
Expeditions to encounter tiger sharks:
The blue shark is a long and slender shark. Adults range in size about 2 – 3 meters. The colour of this shark changes from deep to light blue with a white underbelly. Their coloration makes a perfect camouflage in the open ocean for this pelagic species. They have a long snout, large eyes, and narrow pointed pectoral fins.
Blue sharks are mostly solitary and cover great distances as they migrate around the world. Blue sharks feed primarily on squid and pelagic schooling fishes such as herring, as well as on carcasses of whales and turtles. Blue sharks are under threat from overfishing and from by-catch. They are listed as near-threatened species.
Behavior: Blue sharks are mid-sized oceanic sharks. Even with their cute looks they are still predators and must be treated accordingly. Blue sharks have a tendency of getting very comfortable with snorkelers and they do swim very close to observe. Many times it´s necessary to redirect them away when they stop in front of divers and start observing them for a longer time. Big-sized blue sharks can be very confident with other sharks. They do not display any aggressive behaviors. Swimming with blue sharks is safe only with professional shark guides as sometimes the sharks must be deterred or redirected from divers.
Expeditions to encounter blue sharks:
The best way to identify a lemon shark is by its dorsal fins. Both dorsal fins of a lemon shark are triangular in shape and about the same size. This shark has a bulky body, short snout, and a flattened head with small round eyes and a mouth slightly open showing the teeth. The coloration of its skin is yellow-green or brownish.
Lemon sharks are social creatures that form groups primarily based on similar size. Their diet consists mainly of bony fish and crustaceans. The major threat to lemon shark populations is the degradation of their habitats such as mangroves and shallow reefs. Lemon sharks are categorized as near-threatened species.
Lemon sharks are big-sized non conflictive sharks. They spent most of the time at the bottom but don´t mind swimming up to the surface and stay close to the surface when attracted by food. They are not afraid of divers and swim very close as they are used to being close to other sharks of the same species. They don´t show threatening behavior even when food is involved. Lemon sharks have the ability to filter water through their gills even while staying still so you can find them sometimes resting on the bottom of the ocean.
Expeditions to encounter lemon sharks:
The whale shark is the world's largest fish, reaching up to 15 meters in length. Its head is broad and flattened with a large terminal mouth, small eyes, and large gill slits. Its back and sides are gray to brown with white spots and its belly is whiteish.
Whale sharks are one of the three species of filter-feeding sharks. They feed mainly on plankton by filtering their food over million gallons of water every day. Whale sharks are protected from fishing in many countries these days, but are in decline in some areas and are considered an endangered species.
Very slow. They truly don´t care about each other or about us. Whale sharks are solitary and gather only for big feeding events or mating. When approached by divers or swimmers they just swim along or swim away. Of course, when surrounded by many divers or boats they are not comfortable.
Expeditions to encounter whale sharks: