Sharks are one of the most dangerous, terrifying, and misunderstood creatures on planet earth. Many of us fear them, stemming from the few shark attacks that do happen each year. Although you are more likely to be killed by a car crash or a falling coconut than a shark, the fear remains. In fact, you’re statistically more likely to be killed by a cow, and most people aren’t scared of those at all. So why are we so afraid of sharks?
Maybe it’s the fact that they are masters of their domain. We might be king of the land, but when we go into the water, we’re in their territory. They can outswim us, outmaneuver us, and they are most definitely stronger than us. They can kill us with just one bite – and even if we manage to get away, death from blood loss is still likely to occur in almost all cases.
Then there’s the fact that some of them are just downright terrifying. In honour of the scariest creatures of the seas, we bring you a list of the 15 types of shark we would least like to meet underwater. Even if we were in a cage, these species are so terrifying that we wouldn’t want to meet them at all. Just remember while you read this article that these guys are lurking in the seas and oceans of the world, just waiting to say hello. They probably wouldn’t mind being the last thing you ever see…
15. Black or White Tip Reef Shark
The reason this shark is so scary is because it looks like the kind of archetypal shark you might expect to get the munchies for your leg. They’re also prominent in a lot of popular holiday destinations where you might get into the water. The Maldives are home to them, for example, as are the seas off Australia and Costa Rica. Generally speaking, these sharks are actually quite timid, and will swim away when you approach them. Unless they think you’re a fish. Or you have a fish that they want. They have been known to “argue” with spear catchers, even engaging in tugs of war over bait which have led to fishers being dragged overboard. They don’t actively engage with humans, however. Going fully under the water is often enough to discourage them, as it prevents them from mistaking your feet and legs for a smaller creature.
14. Basking Shark
Basking sharks are scary for two reasons. First of all, they’re huge. Second of all, they have massive mouths that they open up wide as if they are about to suck your very soul out of your skin. Or just swallow you whole. Coming up against a basking shark would not be fun at all, and you would be forgiven for having a heart attack there and then. The good news is that they can’t really hurt you, aside from shoving you around a bit. They are filter feeders, which is why they open their mouths so wide all the time – they can’t actually bite you even if they wanted to. They are also known for being non-aggressive. There’s not much risk of being harmed by them, no matter what happens. This is probably one of the few sharks you’d actually want to meet, even if they look terrifying at first glance.
13. Hammerhead Shark
The hammerhead shark is one of the best-known species in the world, most of all because it looks so odd. The weird shape to its face can make it look faintly ridiculous, but in the real world, it’s also a reason to fear it. There’s something very, very disturbing about a sea creature that you can’t even look in the eye when it is facing directly towards you. It perceives things in ways that we could never hope to understand, which makes escape attempts seem futile. How do you even know if it has seen you or not? There are 10 known species of hammerhead rather than just the 1, but only 3 of them are dangerous to humans. Which is why we hope you have your hammerhead handbook with you next time you come across one. Hey, there’s a 70% chance you’ll survive, right? Who wouldn’t like those odds?
12. Angel Shark
You might not realise that you are actually looking at a shark when you first see this creature. It looks more like a ray, with a large flat body. They can grow up to nearly 4 feet long, but their unusual shape is what really makes them terrifying. Because of their flat body, they can lie in wait on the rocky ocean bed. They have a mottled camouflage which makes them fit right in with the sand, rocks, and coral of the floor. They can also even hide themselves under a thin coverage of mud or sand to help them blend in. Then, when they see something that they would like to eat, they shoot out of hiding to catch it in their jaws. When this shark comes for you, you probably won’t even know that it’s around until it catches hold of your leg. They may be shorter than most of our terrifying sharks, but the element of surprise changes all that.
11. Mako Shark
You may have heard about the mako shark from watching Deep Blue Sea, in which a supersized version devours Samuel L Jackson more or less whole. The real thing is not quite as big, but that does not mean that they are less terrifying. They can come up to about 10 feet in length, which is still big enough to overpower you in an instant. They hunt by swimming beneath their prey, totally undetected, then shoot towards the surface and grab it up. They’ve even been known to throw themselves out of the water in this violent charge, which decimates the prey completely. And guess what? They are one of the deadliest species of sharks out there in terms of attacks on humans. So, if you were planning on going anywhere near water for the rest of your life, good luck on relaxing. They could be beneath you at any point.
10. Tiger Shark
The tiger shark is named after one of the greatest predators on land. That’s why it probably comes as no surprise whatsoever that it’s also pretty daunting in the sea. In recorded history, it has been responsible for 111 unprovoked attacks on humans (which is a weirdly specific number, too). In other words, this is definitely one of the sharks that you want to avoid as much as possible. The good news is that you can often spot this shark pretty easily due to its distinctive markings. The bad news is that if you’re close enough to see the markings, it might already be too late. At least you will go to your doom with full knowledge of what type of shark’s belly you are going to be in. Oh, and by the way, tiger sharks live wherever they please. They’ve been spotted near Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, the US, India, Africa, Indonesia, and so on and so forth.
9. Great White Shark
Traditionally the most terrifying shark of all time, we’ve been collectively having nightmares about the great white ever since Jaws first hit screens. There’s something sinister about the cold, empty eyes combined with the seemingly psychopathic grin of this predator. It doesn’t help that great whites are also responsible for the most unprovoked attacks on humans in history. There have been 314 recorded, which is much more than the runner-up, the tiger shark. We already knew they were something to be feared, and the numbers only confirm that. There are no tricks or gimmicks here: the shark is terrifying because of what it is. If you find yourself face to face with a great white, it’s time to get out of there as fast as you can. Or shove someone else towards it and then get out of there, considering that it’s likely to be able to catch you no matter how fast you swim.
8. Whale Shark
When you think about sharks being scary, it’s probably their size and strength that are the most terrifying things. The fact that they could capsize a boat or eat you whole are the most worrying aspects of their presence in the oceans. When it comes to size and strength, nothing can beat the whale shark. It’s the biggest species of fish in the world, and can be about the same size as a school bus as an adult. They can tip over a boat as if it was nothing more than a leaf floating on the sea. The good news is that they probably don’t want to. Whale sharks are very docile and have even been known to let swimmers ride on their backs. Their food of choice is plankton. In fact, the scariest thing about whale sharks is what happens when they die. Their massive carcasses can attract hordes of smaller sharks looking for a feast, resulting in a total bloodbath.
7. Thresher Shark
The scary thing about this shark is that it looks like some kind of sci-fi illustration. It’s as if someone drew a shark, then decided it wasn’t quite wacky enough. It needed some extra dimension to make it even more terrifying. Well, the thresher shark gets its name from its huge tail. They use it as a whip which can stun their prey – or even kill it. Imagine that tail whipping towards you, slashing your skin, and spilling the first blood into the water. After that, it would be a feeding frenzy. Just in case you needed more nightmare fuel, by the way, thresher sharks can grow up to a size of longer than 19 feet. The tail alone could be bigger than you, never mind the rest of the body. You definitely would not stand a chance against this predator if it decided you looked like a tasty snack.
6. Wobbegong Shark
Despite having a ridiculous name, this shark is nothing to laugh about. Much like the angel shark, this specimen lurks on the ocean floor, with lots of speckles across their backs. They blend in perfectly with seaweed-covered rocks. Which is why you will never see them until they pounce on you. Unlike other species of shark, which have to keep moving in order to breathe, this one has a special weapon. Their gills are different, which means they can still breathe while stay absolutely still. Just like a rock. An 8-foot-long patch of rocks which rises up to bite you when you move past it. We’re starting to understand that it must be a pretty stressful life, being a fish. Just imagine what life would be like if you could never again trust a rock, just in case it decides to eat you. You would never sit down.
5. Cookiecutter Shark
It’s pretty terrifying when you come across a huge shark that can eat you up in one bite. But it’s also terrifying to think about a water creature like the piranha, which will eat you alive in small bites. The cookiecutter shark brings you the best – or more accurately, worst – of both worlds. It’s a relatively small species for a shark, but the bite is something you really don’t want to experience. Their mouths are shaped in such a way that they leave a cookie cutter-like shape after biting you. Yes, these sharks were named for what it looks like when they try you as a snack. You don’t have to be a genius to work out that means they have been known to bite humans. They scoop out small pieces of flesh, but each bite could turn out to be deadly. Come across a whole bunch at once and you’ll understand what it means to be eaten alive, piece by piece.
4. Frilled Shark
Frilled sharks are pretty odd to look at – more like an eel than what we normally expect from a shark. But on the other hand, as soon as they open their mouths, you will see why they’re in this classification. They have 300 teeth, each of which has 3 points. If you’re slow on the maths, that means that they have 900 sharp points in their mouth ready to tear you to shreds. A single bite would have serious consequences. There is a little bit of good news here: they live very far below the surface of the ocean, so it’s rare for them to come into contact with humans. In fact, they are more often seen dead. But that doesn’t mean you would be safe if you got caught in a classic underwater horror movie scenario. These guys probably have one due too, so all we’re saying is you might want to watch out if you’re heading out over deep waters.
3. Saw Shark
The name alone should be enough to tip you off that this isn’t going to be a nice, cuddly creature. The saw shark is so named because of its mouth, a delightful fact that you probably in no way saw coming. They have long snouts lined with teeth, which they use to slash their prey to death. They also have barbels – whiskers – on their snouts so that they can find prey hiding on the sea bed. By the way, the saw fish looks fairly similar. The way to tell the difference is by spotting the barbels. How convenient that so many sharks are only easy to spot once they are right up in your face. They can grow to about 5 feet long, which leaves a lot of snout and probably does not reassure you in any way. Oh, and the best news is, they are rated as “least threatened” on the extinction scale, so they won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
2. Megamouth Shark
Just the name of this shark alone elicits a whole lot of nope. They have a fine row of jagged teeth around the edge of their mouths, which are, as the name suggests, pretty large. If that isn’t enough to make them scary, how about their glow? They actually give off a bioluminescent light which attracts other small sea creatures such as plankton. Imagine diving deep into the water only to spot a glowing shark with a massive mouth coming towards you. Scared yet? The good news is that they attract plankton for a reason. They are filter feeders, meaning that unless you actually swim into their mouths, you should be fine. Plus, they are rare in waters that we can reach. We’ve only managed to record about 55 sightings in human history. So you’re probably safe from this species of shark at least. Just don’t go towards the light.
1. Goblin Shark
No, no, no. God help us all. That can’t be a real creature, can it? Unfortunately, yes. The goblin shark is a bit of a throwback, to a time when sharks looked absolutely ridiculous. The fortunate thing is that many of the most terrifying prehistoric sharks died out. The unfortunate thing is that this disgusting goblin survived. It looks ugly enough, but the really awful thing about the goblin shark is what happens when it lunges its jaws forward. Not its face – just the jaw. Watching a video of these sharks transforming from a normal-looking shark to a long-nose creep is somehow worse than if they were just ugly all the time. They catapult their sharp teeth forwards, leaving the larger part of their face behind, in response to tiny pulses they can sense from living creatures. How are you going to escape from something that can literally throw its own mouth at you? There’s only one thing that works. Stay out of the water!