Types of Sharks in Florida (15 Species with Pictures)


Varying dramatically in size, Sharks are the cartilaginous fish belonging to the subclass of elasmobranch fish. These magnificent aquatic creatures have been around for more than 420 billion years, with about 500 extant species out of which 143 species are either vulnerable, threatened, or endangered.

There are 15 species of sharks that can be found in Florida. In this article, we are going to talk about all these shark species and when they can most likely be seen in the state.

 

Common species of Sharks in Florida

 

Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)

Tiger Shark

  • Body length – 3.25-4.25 meters (10.8-13.1 feet)
  • Weight – 385-635 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 15 years
  • Conservation status – near threatened

Being the only extant member of their genus, the Tiger Sharks are a species of Requiem Sharks that commonly inhabit tropical and temperate waters.

Description – The Tiger Sharks derive their name from the characteristic dark stripes running down their body, resembling the stripes of a tiger. However, these stripes are most prominent in juveniles and fade slowly as they grow older.

The color of their skin ranges from blue to green, with their underbelly being light-yellow. Their counter-shaded coloration helps them remain undetected by their prey.

These sharks have an upper tail considerably longer than the lower one, which lends them speed. Their fins are long as well, helping them maneuver through the water.

The teeth of these sharks are most remarkable; they are sharp, with their tip pointing sideways. The unique structure of their teeth helps them to slice through anything that comes into their mouth, be it bones, flesh, or even a hardened turtle shell.

When can you see them in Florida? The Tiger Sharks can be seen in Florida from December to July.

 

Dusky Shark (Carcharhinus obscurus)

Dusky Shark

  • Body length – 3.2 meters (10 feet)
  • Weight – 160-180 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 30 years
  • Conservation status – endangered

Often known as “Bronze whales” or “Black whalers”, the Dusky Sharks are the largest species of Requiem Sharks that are also known for their seasonal migrations.

Description – The Dusky Sharks have a long and slender, streamlined body with a snout that is broad and rounded in contrast, growing as wide as their mouth. They display sexual dimorphism, wherein the females usually grow larger than their male counterparts. These sharks have five pairs of gill slits, all of which are fairly long. Being shaped like a sickle, their first dorsal fin is the most identifiable feature of their body.

Additional information – Although the species of Dusky Sharks are known for their nomadic behavior, the females always return to their birthplace to reproduce.

When can you see them in Florida? The Dusky Sharks are found in Florida from late June to early September.

 

Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

Nurse Shark

  • Body length – 2.3-3 meters (7.5-10 feet)
  • Weight – 91-150 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 15-25 years
  • Conservation status – unknown

Although they appear harmless and inoffensive, the Nurse Sharks are among the sharks that have bit humans most often. These sedentary elasmobranch fish are robust in nature and handle captures and tagging surprisingly well.

Description – The Nurse Sharks have a broad, rounded head, with a couple of rounded dorsal as well as pectoral fins and an elongated caudal fin, which makes up about one-fourth of their total body length. The skin of the adult Nurse Shark is very smooth, unlike most sharks, and is almost chocolate-brown in color. However, the juveniles have heavily-spotted skin. These sharks have strong jaws that consist of about a thousand small, serrated teeth.

Additional information – Although the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) does not have enough data on this shark species, their population is considered to be fairly common in the Bahamas and the United States. It is in South and Central America that their species is reportedly vulnerable.

When can you see them in Florida? The Nurse Sharks are fairly common in Florida and can be found here throughout the year.

 

Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran)

Great Hammerhead Shark

  • Body length – 3.5 meters (11 feet)
  • Weight – about 230 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 20-30 years
  • Conservation status – critically endangered

As the name suggests, the Great Hammerhead Sharks are the largest members of the Hammerhead Shark family. With a highly diverse diet, these sharks are one of the most dangerous inhabitants of the oceans.

Description – The Great Hammerhead Sharks have a streamlined body with their head extended into a cephalofoil, which is typical of all the members of the hammerhead shark family. However, it is the shape of their cephalofoil that sets these sharks apart from the rest of the hammerhead sharks, which has an almost straight front margin and takes up about 25% of their body length.

The teeth of the Great Hammerhead Sharks are strongly serrated and have a triangular shape. Their upper body color ranges from light grey to olive to dark brown, while their undersides are white. These sharks also have a distinctive first dorsal fin, which is very tall, shaped almost like a sickle.

When can you see them in Florida? You can spot the Great Hammerhead Sharks in Florida from the month of January to May.

 

Lemon Shark (Negaprion brevirostris)

Lemon Shark

  • Body length – 2.4-3.1 meters (7.9-10.2 feet)
  • Weight – about 90 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 27 years
  • Conservation status – near threatened

Named after the color of their dorsal parts, the Lemon Sharks are large members of the family of the Requiem Sharks. Although these nocturnal sharks are dangerous predators, they pose no threat to humans.

Description – Although they have been named “lemon”, the body of the Lemon Sharks is not as bright; instead, it is a shade of yellowish-brown, giving them a muddy appearance that helps them in blending with the seabed. Their undersides are white.

These sharks have a large, bulky body that is flatter in shape than most of the shark species. They have a short snout, which has specialized pores containing electroreceptors to help them hunt for their prey.

When can you see them in Florida? The Lemon Sharks are one of the most common species of shark in Florida and can be found in the state all year round.

 

Silky Shark (Carcharhinus falciformis)

Silky Shark

  • Body length – about 2.5 meters (8.2 feet)
  • Weight – about 346 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 23 years
  • Conservation status – vulnerable

The Silky Sharks are a species of Requiem Sharks that are named after the unusually smooth texture of their skin. These sharks are known by many different names such as “Sickle shark”, “Ridgeback shark”, “Blackspot shark”, “Great whaler shark”, “Olive shark”, etc.

Description – The Silky Sharks are one of the largest members of their genus, and display sexual dimorphism, with the males being smaller in size than their female counterparts. These sharks have a slender, streamlined body, with a long, rounded snout and flappy skin developed in front of their nostrils.

Their upper body is golden-brown to greyish in color, while the undersides are white. Their brilliant coloration quickly fades to a dull grey when they die. While their upper teeth are serrated and triangular in shape, the lower ones are smooth-edged, narrow, and erect.

When can you see them in Florida? You can spot the Silky Sharks in Florida in the months of June, July, and August.

 

Caribbean Reef Shark (Carcharhinus perezi)

Caribbean Reef Shark

  • Body length – 2-2.5 meters (6.6-8.2 feet)
  • Weight – 60-70 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 25 years
  • Conservation status – near threatened

The Caribbean Reef Sharks have been named after the Caribbean Sea because they are most commonly spotted in the sea. These sharks are closely related to the Silky as well as the Dusky Sharks and belong to the same family of Requiem Sharks.

Description – The Caribbean Reef Sharks have a bulky, streamlined body that is colored greyish-brown on the upper side and yellowish-white on the underside. These sharks also have white bands on their flanks that are only slightly visible.

Their anal fin, as well as the lower lobe of their caudal fin, is covered in a dusky shade. They have large, circular eyes with a snout that is short yet rounded.

When can you see them in Florida? The Caribbean Reef Sharks are commonly spotted in Florida throughout the summer months.

 

Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas)

  • Body length – 2.25 meters (7.4 feet) in males; 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) in females
  • Weight – 95 kilograms in males; 130 kilograms in females
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 15 years
  • Conservation status – near threatened

The Bull Sharks are a species of Requiem Sharks that are known by different names throughout the world; in Africa, they are called the “Zambezi sharks”, while in Nicaragua, they are known as “Lake Nicaragua sharks”.

Unlike most shark species that inhabit saltwater, these sharks are mostly found in freshwater, traveling to saltwater bodies often during reproduction.

Description – The Bull Sharks have a large and stout barrel-shaped body and display sexual dimorphism, with the females being significantly larger in size than their male counterparts. These sharks have a small snout, two dorsal fins (the first one bigger than the second), and a long caudal fin positioned lower than in other sharks. Their upper body is grey in color, while the underparts are white.

Additional information – The Bull Sharks are placed among the top three man-eating sharks in the world, along with the Tiger and Great White Sharks, making them very dangerous for the human race.

When can you see them in Florida? Between the months of January and June, you can see large populations of Bull Sharks in Florida. However, they are seen in smaller numbers throughout the rest of the year.

 

Sandbar Shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus)

Sandbar Shark

  • Body length – 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) in males; 2-2.5 meters (6.6-8.5 feet) in females
  • Weight – 45-90 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 35-41 years
  • Conservation status – vulnerable

Endemic to the Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific Ocean, the Sandbar Sharks have been named after the sandy bays and estuaries they are mostly found on. Often referred to as “Thickskin shark” or “Brown shark”, these sharks are one of the largest coastal shark species.

Description – The Sandbar Sharks possess high, triangular dorsal fins, and a pair of pectoral fins that are rather long. Their body is heavily set with a rounded snout that is shorter than that of the other sharks. These sharks display sexual dimorphism, wherein the males mature sexually when they are a year younger than their female counterparts and are smaller in size than the latter.

When can you see them in Florida? You can spot the Sandbar Sharks in Florida between the months of May to August.

 

Rare species of Sharks in Florida

 

Smooth Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna zygaena)

Smooth Hammerhead Shark

  • Body length – 2.5-3.5 meters (8.2-11.5 feet)
  • Weight – about 400 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 20 years
  • Conservation status – vulnerable

The Smooth Hammerhead Sharks are the second largest members of the Hammerhead Shark family, only smaller than the Great Hammerhead Sharks.

Description – The Smooth Hammerhead Sharks have a typical hammer-like head but lack the indentation in the middle, which is why they are called “smooth”. These sharks have a streamlined body that is shiny-black on the upper part, and white on the underside. They lack the dorsal ridge that is usually present between the two dorsal fins.

When can you see them in Florida? The chances of spotting the Smooth Hammerhead Sharks in Florida are the highest between June to August.

 

Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)

Whale Shark

  • Body length – 11-12 meters (36-39 feet)
  • Weight – about 15,000 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 80-130 years
  • Conservation status – endangered

Being the largest known extant species of the world, the Whale Sharks are large, filter-feeding carpet sharks that are only living members of their genus.

Description – A distinguishing difference between the Whale Shark and the other species of sharks is the position of their mouth. While other sharks have their mouth on the underside of their head, the mouth of these sharks is located right in front of their head.

In their mouth, they have over 300 tiny teeth and 20 filter pads that help them with filter-feeding. Their dorsal parts are dark grey in color, with a white belly covered in spots or stripes individual to each shark.

When can you see them in Florida? If you’re lucky, you might spot the Whale Sharks in Florida at any given time of the year!

 

Bonnethead Shark (Sphyrna tiburo)

Bonnethead Shark

  • Body length – 0.61-0.91 meters (2-3 feet)
  • Weight – about 5.9 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 12 years
  • Conservation status – least concern

Also referred to as “Shovelhead”, the Bonnethead Sharks are one of the smallest members of the Hammerhead Shark family. These sharks are found in abundance in the Americas.

Description – The Bonnethead Sharks have a smooth head that is shaped like a spade, with a greyish-brown upper body and a white underbody. Their eyes and mouth are present on the lower side of their cephalofoil. These sharks display sexual dimorphism in the shape of their head, with the adult females possessing a more broadly rounded head than their male counterparts.

When can you see them in Florida? There is no fixed time of the year when you can spot the Bonnethead Sharks in Florida.

 

Smalltooth Sawfish (Pristis pectinate)

  • Body length – 5.54 meters (18.2 feet)
  • Weight – about 350 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 30 years
  • Conservation status – critically endangered

Belonging to the family of the carpenter sharks, the Smalltooth Sawfish are found in the tropical and subtropical parts of the Atlantic.

Description – The Smalltooth Sawfish have brownish or bluish-grey upperparts with a white below. They have the characteristic saw-like toothed rostrum attached to the front of their head. Since their gill slits are located on the lower part of their body, these sharks are often considered to be a type of Ray.

When can you see them in Florida? The Smalltooth Sawfish are more like to appear in Florida during the winter months.

 

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna lewini)

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

  • Body length – 1.5-1.8 meters (4.9-5.9 feet) in males; 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in females
  • Weight – 29 kilograms in males; 80 kilograms in females
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 35 years
  • Conservation status – critically endangered

The Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks are also referred to by the names of “Bronze hammerhead”, “Southern hammerhead”, or “Kidney-headed shark”.

Description – The Scalloped Hammerheads have a medium-sized body with greyish upperparts and white underparts. They display strong sexual dimorphism, with the females being considerably larger and heavier than their male counterparts.

When can you see them in Florida? You’re most likely to the Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks in Florida in the months of July and August.

 

Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)

Blacktip Shark

  • Body length – 1.5 meters (4.9 feet)
  • Weight – about 123 kilograms
  • Diet – carnivore
  • Lifespan – about 12 years
  • Conservation status – near threatened

The Blacktip Sharks are known for their ability to live both in saltwater as well as brackish waters.

Description – The Blacktip Sharks have a long, pointed snout with a streamlined body and eyes that seem small for them. They have five pairs of gill slits that are remarkably longer in comparison to other Requiem Sharks. The upper side of their body is slate-ish in color with white underparts.

When can you see them in Florida? Just like the Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks, the Blacktip Sharks also tend to come to Florida in the months of July and August.

 

Types of Sharks in Florida (endnotes)

All the Shark species that are found in Florida can broadly be divided into two different groups, based on the probability of their occurrence in the state. While 9 out of the 15 species are common in the state, the remaining six are rarely seen.