Tiger Shark / Wikimedia / Terry Goss
Tiger Shark / Wikimedia image by Terry Goss

New England Sharks 

Compiled from Wikipedia, NOAA
and other public domain sources

Thresher Shark / Porbeagle Shark / Shortfin Mako / Great white shark / Basking Shark / Tiger Shark / Sandbar Shark / Sand Tiger Shark / Angel Sharks / Smooth Hammerhead / Atlantic Sharpnose / Spiny Dogfish / Smooth Dogfish / Dusky Shark

When we think of sharks we tend to think of the large beasts that on extremely rare occasions attack people. Survival is at stake after all. But sharks are much more than predators to avoid. They are a vital part of the ocean's ecosystem. There are more than 360 species of shark ranging in size from 2" to fifty feet or more. Below are details on some of the most common.

For those who are concerned about shark attacks here are some comforting facts. According to the International Shark Attack File maintained by the University of Florida there have been 5 unprovoked shark attacks in New England since 1670. You read that right… that’s 5 unprovoked attacks in the past 400 years. One took place in Connecticut. The other four took place in Massachusetts. Three of the attacks were fatal. The last fatality took place in 1936.

Thresher Shark

pelagic thresher shark
Wikimedia image

Named for and easily recognized by their exceptionally long, thresher-like tail or caudal fins (which account for 1/3 (33%) of their total body length), thresher sharks are active predators; the tail is actually used as a weapon to stun prey. By far the largest of the three species is the Common thresher, Alopias vulpinus, which may reach a length of 5.45 m (18 ft) and a weight of 348 kg (767 lb). The Bigeye thresher, Alopias superciliosus, is next in size, reaching a length of 4.9 m (16 ft); at just 3 m (10 ft), the Pelagic thresher, Alopias pelagicus, is the smallest.

Thresher sharks are fairly slender, with small dorsal fins and large, recurved pectoral fins. With the exception of the Bigeye thresher, these sharks have relatively small eyes. Coloration ranges from brownish, bluish or purplish gray dorsally with lighter shades ventrally. The three species can be roughly distinguished by the main color of the dorsal surface of the body. Common threshers are dark green, Bigeye threshers are brown and Pelagic threshers are generally blue. Lighting conditions and water clarity can affect how any one shark appears to an observer, but the color test is generally supported when other features are examined.
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Porbeagle Shark

porbeagle shark, lamna nasus
Wikimedia image

The most distinguishing characteristic of the porbeagle is a white patch on the trailing edge of the dorsal fin. This distinguishes it from both the salmon shark and the great white shark. It has two keels on the caudal fin, in common with the salmon shark.

The porbeagle is a stout and heavy shark, dark blue-grey on top and white underneath, with a conical snout. The porbeagle can grow to about 3.7 m (12 ft), weighing about 160 to 250 kg (350 to 550 lb).
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Shortfin Mako

short fin mako
NOAA image

The shortfin mako shark, Isurus oxyrinchus, ("sharp nose") is a large shark of the Lamnidae family. Along with the closely related longfin mako, Isurus paucus, it is commonly called just mako shark. With a full-grown length of 2.75 – 4 m (9 – 13 ft) it has been reported to weigh up to 800 kg (1,750 lb) and has a bluish back and white underside. Although the sexes grow at about the same rate, females are thought to have a longer life span, and grow larger and weigh more than the males.

Shortfin makos are renowned for their speed and their ability to leap out of the water. In fact, there are cases that when an angry mako will jump out of the water and into the boat after it has been caught on the hook. Mako sharks have a better hydrodynamic shape than all other sharks, and this, combined with the lamnidae's typical high aerobic muscle mass, reflects in the spectacular speed and agility of both the longfin and shortfin makos.
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Great white shark (Protected)

white shark
NOAA image

The great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, also known as white pointer, white shark, or white death, is an exceptionally large lamniforme shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. Reaching lengths of about 6 metres (20 ft) and weighing up to 2,250 kilograms (5,000 lb), the great white shark is the world's largest known predatory fish. It is the only known surviving species of its genus, Carcharodon. The great white shark has a robust large conical-shaped snout. It has almost the same size upper and lower lobes on the tail fin (like most mackerel sharks, but unlike most other sharks).

Great white sharks have a white belly and a grey back (sometimes in a brownish or bluish shade). The colouration makes it difficult for prey to spot the shark because it breaks up the shark's outline when seen from a lateral perspective. When viewed from above, the darker shade blends in with the sea. Great white sharks, like many other sharks, have rows of teeth behind the main ones, allowing any that break off to be rapidly replaced. A great white shark's teeth are serrated and when the shark bites it will shake its head side to side and the teeth will act as a saw and tear off large chunks of flesh. Great white sharks often swallow their own broken off teeth along with chunks of their prey's flesh. These teeth frequently cause damage to the great white shark's digestive tract.However great white sharks often feed on stingrays and swallow the 'sting' as well, the barbed sting often getting stuck in the shark's intestines.
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Basking Shark (Protected)

basking shark
Wikimedia image

The basking shark is one of the largest known sharks, second only to the whale shark. The largest specimen accurately measured was trapped in a herring net in the Bay of Fundy, Canada in 1851. Its total length was 12.27 metres (40 ft 3 in), and weighed an estimated 19 tons. There are reports from Norway of three basking sharks over 12 m (the largest being 13.7 m), but those are considered dubious since few if any sharks anywhere near such size have been caught in the area since. Normally the basking shark reaches a length of between 6 metres (20 feet) and a little over 8 m (26 ft). Some specimens surpass 9 or even 10 m, but after years of hard fishing, specimens of this size have become exceedingly rare.

These sharks possess the typical lamniform body plan and have been mistaken for great white sharks. The two species can be easily distinguished, however, by the basking shark's cavernous jaw (up to 1 m in width, held wide open whilst feeding), longer and more obvious gill slits (which nearly encircle the head and are accompanied by well-developed gill raker), smaller eyes, and smaller average girth. Great whites possess large, dagger-like teeth, whilst those of the basking shark are much smaller (5–6 mm) and hooked; only the first 3–4 rows of the upper jaw and 6–7 rows of the lower jaw are functional. There are also several behavioural differences between the two.
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Tiger Shark

tiger shark
Wikimedia image / Terry Goss

The tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, one of the largest sharks, is the only member of the genus Galeocerdo. Mature sharks average 3.25 metres (11 ft) to 4.25 metres (14 ft) and weigh 385 to 635 kg (850 to 1400 lb). It is found in many of the tropical and temperate regions of the world's oceans, and is especially common around islands in the central Pacific. This shark is a solitary hunter, usually hunting at night. Its name is derived from the dark stripes down its body, which fade as the shark matures.

The tiger shark is a dangerous predator, known for eating a wide range of items. Its usual diet consists of fish, seals, birds, smaller sharks, squid, and turtles. It has sometimes been found with man-made waste such as license plates or pieces of old tires in its digestive tract. It is notorious for attacks on swimmers, divers and surfers in Hawaii; and is often referred to as the "bane of Hawaiian surfers" and "the wastebasket of the sea".

The tiger shark is second only to the great white in number of recorded human fatalities and is considered, along with the great white, bull shark and the oceanic whitetip shark to be one of the sharks most dangerous to humans.
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Sandbar Shark

sandbar shark
NOAA image

The sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, comes from the Carcharhinidae family of sharks, also called requiem sharks. The sandbar shark is also called the thickskin shark or brown shark. It is one of the biggest coastal sharks in the world, and is closely related to the dusky shark, the bignose shark, and the bull shark. Its dorsal fin is triangular and very high, and weighs as much as 18% of the shark's whole body. Sandbar sharks usually have heavy-set bodies and rounded snouts that are shorter than the average shark's snout. Their upper teeth have broadly uneven cusps with sharp edges. Its second dorsal fin and anal fin are close to the same height. Females can grow to 7 or 8 feet, males up to 6 feet. Its body color can vary from a bluish to a brownish grey to a bronze, with a white or pale underside. Sandbar sharks swim alone or gather in sex-segregated schools that vary in size. They are most active at night, at dawn, and at dusk
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Sand Tiger Shark (Protected)

sand tiger shark
NOAA image

Sand sharks, also known as sand tigers or ragged toothed sharks, are lamniform sharks of the family Odontaspididae (or sometimes - but incorrectly - referred to as Carchariidae). They are found on both sides of the Atlantic coast, but most notably in the Western Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Maine. There are four species in two genera.

Sand sharks have a large second dorsal fin. They typically grow to 5 to 9 ft. on average. The body tends to be brown in color with dark markings in the upper half. They possess a rudimentary swim bladder - a highly unusual feature in sharks - which enables them to have exquisite control over their buoyancy compared with other sharks. Their needle-like teeth are highly adapted for impaling fish - their main prey.
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Angel Sharks

angel shark
NOAA image

The angel sharks are an unusual group of sharks with flattened bodies and broad pectoral fins that give them a strong resemblance to skates and rays. The 16-odd known species are all classified in a single genus, Squatina, belonging to its own family, Squatinidae, and order Squatiniformes. They occur worldwide in temperate and tropical seas.

Appearence, While the forward part of the angel shark's body is broad and flattened, the rear part retains a muscular appearance more typical of other sharks. The eyes and spiracles are on top, and the five gill slits are on bottom. Both the pectorals and the pelvic fins are large and held horizontally. There are two dorsal fins, no anal fin, and unusually for sharks, the lower lobe of the caudal fin is longer than the upper lobe. Most types grow to a length of 1.5 m (5 ft), with the Japanese angelshark, Squatina japonica, known to reach 2 meters.
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Smooth Hammerhead shark

hammerhead
Wikimedia image

The smooth hammerhead, Sphyrna zygaena, is a large hammerhead shark living in temperate and tropical seas. It is differentiated from other species of hammerhead by the smooth shape of its cephalophoil (head) and its lack of a central indentation. Its coloration varies from brownish-gray to deep olive (as with most hammerhead sharks), fading to a pale whitish color on its underside. The shark's teeth are similar on both the upper and lower jaws, are triangular and smooth edged. Adults of the smooth species attain lengths up to 4 meters, and can weigh more than 400 kilograms.

The smooth hammerhead shark is the only species of hammerhead that appears in Canadian coastal waters, having been reported off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada near Herring Cove, Sambro Light, Brier Island, and St. Margaret's bay.
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Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

Atlantic sharpnose
Wikimedia image

The Atlantic sharpnose shark, Rhizoprionodon terraenovae, is a requiem shark of the family Carcharhinidae, found in the subtropical waters of the western Atlantic Ocean between latitudes 43° N and 25° S, at depths of from 10 to 280 m. Its length is up to about 1.1 m.

The Atlantic sharpnose shark is a small, generally grey, streamlined shark, with a long pointed snout. The posterior margin of the anal fin is straight or slightly concave. The second dorsal fin origin is well behind the anal fin origin. It is abundant on the continental shelves, from the intertidal to deeper waters, and often occurs close to the surf zone off sandy beaches, and also enclosed bays, sounds, and harbours, in estuaries and river mouths. It feeds on small bony fishes, shrimps, crabs, segmented worms, molluscs and gastropods. It is viviparous, having 1 to 7 young in a litter, with the size at birth about 29 to 37 cm. It is utilized for human consumption.
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Spiny Dogfish

spiny dogfish
NOAA image

The spiny dogfish or piked dogfish, Squalus acanthias, is one of the best known of the dogfish, members of the family Squalidae in the order Squaliformes. There are actually several species to which the names are applied, but all are readily distinguished by their having two spines (one anterior to each dorsal fin) and their lack of an anal fin. It is found in shallow waters and offshore in most parts of the world, especially in temperate waters.
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Dusky Shark (Protected)

dusky shark
Wikimedia image

The dusky shark, Carcharhinus obscurus, is one of the larger species of shark, reaching 350 kg. The dusky shark is also known as the black whaler and dusky whaler. Less frequently used names include bay-shark, brown dusky shark, brown shark, common whaler, dusky ground shark. The dusky shark has a long streamlined body that is brown or gray above and white below. On the side of the body a stripe can be seen from the pelvic fins to the head. They can reach 3.65 m.
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Smooth Dogfish

smooth dogfish
Wikimedia image

The smooth dogfish, Mustelus canis, is a species of shark. This shark is an olive grey or brown, and may have shades of yellow or grayish white. Females live to 16 years and males have a life span of 10 years.

A common resident in bays, and other inshore waters, the smooth dogfish prefers shallow waters of less than 18 m (60 ft) in depth but may be found to depths of 200 m (650 ft). This species has also been found on occasion in freshwater although it is unlikely they can survive freshwater for extended periods of time. The smooth dogfish migrates seasonally, moving north in the spring and south in the autumn. It is primarily a nocturnal species.
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Check out the following links to learn more about sharks:
New England shark information
International Shark Attack File
First hand account of an attack by a white shark on a diver
YouTube video of white shark attacking a seal

Sources :
New England Sharks

Wikipedia

Image Sources
NOAA
Wikipedia
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