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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




  • Richard

    I would dissagree there somewhat . Whilst the Great White is a dangerous animal and is the largest non-filter feeding variety of shark it is by no means the most dangerous. The Bull shark is by far the most aggressive of all sharks attacking just for the sake of having a bad tempered nature. Its’ ability to withstand even only mildly brackish water means that many casualties have occured when people have been swimming, washing their clothes or fishing far upstream in river systems ( the Bull shark enter such water courses to breed ). Most ‘attacks’ start as an inquisative bite by most sharks including Great Whites just to suss out what is infront of it. Only if blood is drawn by this does the natural arousal of senses cause the feeding instinct to come into action.
    I would put the Great White in third place after the Tiger shark mainly because these animals feed as pack hunters and work together in order to achieve a kill, the Great White being solitary. The White Tip reef shark is another variety to be wary of not like its cousin the Black Tip which I have swam amongst happily on many occasions with not a fear in the world. The White Tip is very unpredictable in its behaviour almost comparable to a state of paranoia probably because these shaks like many are territorial unlike Whites who are roamers. Comments ???