What is the biggest shark in the world?

Asked by Paul Taylor

The biggest shark in the world, reaching lengths of over 12m (40ft) is the whale shark (rhincodon typus) but it’s not the most dangerous. It feeds by filtering very small animals such as shrimps out of the water via its gills and has incredibly tiny teeth. The second largest shark, the basking shark (cetorhinus maximus), is also harmless to man and feeds in the same way.

Basking sharks are usually around 7.5m (25ft). The largest, most dangerous shark is the great white shark (carcharodon carcharias) which at its maximum size is less than half as long as a whale shark but has much bigger teeth, over 5cm (2 inches) long. Great whites normally like to eat seals and other marine mammals but have been implicated in hundreds of attacks on humans.

James Maclaine, Department of Zoology, Natural History Museum