Did you know there are over 400 different types of sharks? All sharks are part of the class Chondrichthyes (can-drik-theez) which is a big word that means they are fish made up of cartilage. You also have cartilage; it makes up the hard parts of your nose and ears. Sharks are part of this class because their entire skeleton is made up of cartilage instead of bone!
We’re not going to go over all 400 or more different species of sharks, that would take far too long and be rather boring without pictures! Instead, we’re going to look at eight of the orders that scientists use to organize the different sharks.
Scientists use something called taxonomical nomenclature (tax-o-no-mik-al no-men-clay-sure) to sort all living things—it goes kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species.
Don’t worry too much about remembering all the steps, you’ll have plenty of time to learn this when you get older and have more science classes. All you need to know is that the orders help scientists keep sharks with similar body types together.
The Eight Orders of Sharks in this Blog
Six- or Seven-Gill Sharks
Ground sharks are the biggest order of sharks and include sharks like the tiger shark and the hammerhead shark, as well as cool sharks like the leopard shark, which has a leopard pattern on its skin.
Every shark in this order has five gill slits to help them breathe in the water, as well as movable eyelids, two dorsal fins (the fins on their back) without any spikes on them, and a wide mouth with sharp teeth.
Even though a lot of the species of shark in this order look different from each other, they all belong to the order ground shark, making it easier for scientists to study them!
These sharks get their name from their rounded face and head, making them look kind of like a bulldog. Every shark in this order has five gill slits, a dorsal find with a spine, and sharp and flat teeth. If you look inside your mouth, you also have sharp and flat teeth, just like bullhead sharks!
There are only nine species in this order, including the horn shark and the zebra bullhead shark, which has stripes just like a zebra.
Six- or Seven-Gill Sharks
These sharks have a lot in common with prehistoric sharks. Sharks that are part of this order usually live in really cold, deep water, meaning you’re not likely to see them near beaches. Like the name says, these sharks have six or seven gills, as well as only one dorsal fin, and thorny teeth.
One of the sharks in this order is the frilled shark, which looks a lot like an eel and lives at the bottom of the ocean.
Have you ever heard of great white sharks? Those sharks are part of the order of mackerel sharks and have two dorsal fins, five gill slits, and a big, big mouth with several rows of sharp teeth. These sharks are special because their bodies are warmer than the water they swim in, unlike other sharks.
This order of sharks gets its name because of how flat the sharks in it are. These sharks have five gill slits, two spineless dorsal fins, and spiracles near their eyes. Spiracles let sharks bring in water, even when they’re not moving.
The whale shark is a carpet shark and is the biggest shark ever discovered. whale sharks can get up to 40 feet (12 meters) long—that’s about the size of a school bus!
Saw sharks get their name from their long noses, with edges that look a lot like a saw. Saw sharks can have five to six gill slits, two dorsal fins, and wide pectoral (side) fins, and they live in warmer waters, usually in tropical places or near coasts.
These sharks have rounded snouts and short mouths, kinda like a dog, which is where they got their names. There are 126 species in this order, and you can find dogfish sharks in almost every body of salt water in the world. Some dogfish sharks even produce light, called bioluminescence (bio-loom-in-ess-ants)!
The last order of sharks we're going to talk about is angelsharks. These sharks get their name because they look like they have wings, kind of like angels. These sharks are flatter than other sharks and have short noses. It’s no surprise that the angel shark is a part of this order!
There are so many cool shark types! What type of shark are you most interested in? If you're ready to learn more about sharks, check out our August STEM Kit! We're diving into the ocean to learn about shark habitats, shark species, and more!
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