Factsheet
Sharks

Shark Species Profiles

There are hundreds of known species of sharks swimming our oceans, and sadly, many of them are endangered. Here's a quick look at a few of the many species we've been working to protect.

Porbeagle (Lamna nasus)

Bearing some similarities to the iconic great white, the porbeagle is a stout-bodied shark with a pointed nose and a unique white spot on the rear of the dorsal fin. These sharks rarely exceed about 8 feet in length as adults. This species was a favorite target for fishing vessels from the 1950s to the 1990s for shark steaks, until strict fishing laws were implemented in the late 1990s to save the species from overfishing.

Scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini)

Scalloped hammerhead sharks can be found in most tropical oceans, mainly located in local reefs or along the continental shelves at depths more than 1,600 feet. The scalloped hammerhead bears the same symbolic hammer-shaped head and pointed fins as its cousins, but also has five indentations along the rim of its hammer. One of the smaller hammerhead sharks species, scalloped hammerhead males can grow to be nearly 5 feet long, while females can grow to be more than 8 feet. All types of hammerheads are a favorite of finning vessels, fetching high prices for their fins and subsequently devastating local populations by up to 80%.

Smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena)

Unlike other hammerhead species, smooth hammerhead sharks prefer temperate climates to tropical, ranging further north and south than any other species of hammerhead. Smooth hammerheads have been found down to depths of only 650 feet, though they spend most of their time in coastal reefs around just 65 feet deep. Smooth hammerheads are named for their hammer, which bears no indentations along the rim. Second only to the great hammerhead in size, adults of this species typically grow to around 11 feet long. Although they are not finned as often as other species of hammerhead, the smooth hammerhead global population has declined considerably due to overfishing.

Great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran)

The great hammerhead shark is a tropical species, often found in very shallow waters typically above reefs and continental shelves ranging anywhere from 1 to more than 260 feet deep. The great hammerhead is the largest in its family, with males averaging 11 feet in length and females up to 20 feet. The great hammerhead gets its name from both its size and the iconic hammer-shape of its head, which has three indentations across the front rim. Also like the others of its species, the great hammerhead global population has been greatly impacted due to overfishing of finning vessels in search of high-value fins.

Oceanic whitetip  (Carcharhinus longimanus)

The oceanic whitetip shark can be found in all oceans of the world, up to depths of nearly 500 feet. The most distinguished characteristics of the oceanic whitetip are its pectoral and dorsal fins, which are longer than most shark species and are white at the ends (hence the common name whitetip). Adults of this species typically grow to nearly 10 feet in length, though a 13-foot-long male has been found. This was once the most abundant shark species on the planet, but due to bycatch and the finning industry, has had its global population reduced by at least 70%, with a 98% loss in the Mediterranean.

More on Sharks: Threats to Sharks »

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scalloped hammerhead, © Terry Goss 2008/Marine Photobank
Success Story
September 2014 - Five species of shark and two species of manta ray have officially gained international protection!
Hammerhead Shark, © Tui De Roy / Minden Pictures
In the Magazine
New Hope for Hammerheads; From Doves to Condors; Wolverine Woes
Reef Shark, © Ed Gullekson
Conservation Issue
Wildlife doesn’t stop at the U.S. border – so neither do we. We work internationally to protect wildlife around the world.