About Sharks

Sharks have inhabited our oceans for over 400 hundred million years and survived five mass extinctions, demonstrating perfect adaption to their environment. They occupy almost every marine ecosystem on earth and some are even able to survive in freshwater!

All shapes & sizes

Worldwide there are over 500 species of shark, 600 species of skate and ray, and 30 chimaera, all of which fulfil a different niche.

When talking about sharks you may envisage the classic torpedo-shaped body of the White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) but the world of sharks offers fascinating diversity - from the tiny Pygmy Lantern Shark (Etmopterus fusus) with its glowing belly, to the impressive filter feeding Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) that can grow up to 17m in length. The Epaulette Shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) uses its fins to walk over coral reefs and the bizarre looking Tasselled Wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) uses camouflage to hide from its prey. Blue Sharks (Prionace glauca) undertake huge migrations thousands of miles long, whereas the Zebra Shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) is a sedentary species.

Epaulette Shark © Alex Mustard

Epaulette Sharks use their pectoral fins to ‘walk’ over the reef.

Hammerhead Shark © Jillian Morris

The unusual shape of this sharks head allows it to see 360°.

Zebra Shark © Leolin Grower

Juvenile Zebra Sharks have black stripes, which become spots as they mature.

Port Jackson Shark © Taso Viglas

These sharks reproduce by laying corkscrew shaped eggcases that they wedge in rock crevices.

Whale Shark © Andy Botten

The biggest fish in the sea can grow up to 17m long!

Blue Shark © Terry Goss

This dazzling blue shark undertakes long-distance migrations.

Whitetip Reef Sharks © Ofer Ketter

Whitetip Reef Sharks tend to rest during the day but come out at night to hunt.

Raggedtooth Shark © Dray van Beeck

Also called the Sandtiger or Grey Nurse Shark, these sharks can often be seen in aquariums.

White Shark © Sean Sequeira

The infamous White Shark can be found in temperate seas all over the world.

Wobbegong © Andy Murch

Master of disguise - this shark camouflages itself against the reefs, where it lies in wait for prey.

Sevengill Shark © Peter de Maagt

These sharks have two extra sets of gills compared to most other sharks that only have five.

Lemon Shark © Vignaud Thomas

Female Lemon Sharks give birth to pups in shallow sheltered nursery grounds.

Why are sharks important?

Despite being perfectly adapted to their environment sharks are among the most endangered species on the planet because of the impacts of humans. As apex predators sharks, just like wolves and lions on land, fulfil a key role in maintaining the balance of the ocean by keeping other populations in check. As they prey on the weakest species (such as the sick and old), they also prevent the spread of disease and improve the gene pool, providing healthy ecosystems. However their life history strategy of slow growth, late maturity and few offspring makes them extremely vulnerable to exploitation.

Sharks in danger

Recent assessments by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group ranked the sharks of the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea with the worst conservation status of all assessed regions. 30% of EU and 50% of UK shark species are listed as threatened and some species are reported to have declined by 99%. Populations continue to decline under the intense pressure of unmanaged modern fisheries practices, driven by global consumer demand for shark based products.

How can you help

There are a number of ways you can help, from getting involved in our projects, becoming a member or adding your voice to one of our campaigns. Find out more by visiting our Get Involved page.

Join the Shark Trust Adopt a shark Make a donation Join the campaign

Become a member

Adopt a shark

Make a donation

Join our campaign

To discover more about the interesting world of sharks click on the links below:

Shark Biology

British Sharks

Skates & Rays


Shark Attacks

Shark Culture