The 10 Largest Shark Species in the Ocean

Sharks come in all shapes and sizes, from the diminutive dwarf lanternshark that grows to just 17 inches, to giant apex predators like the whale shark that can reach lengths of over 40 feet. Oceans worldwide are home to over 500 species of sharks, but only a handful rank as true giants.

These behemoths of the deep cast intimidating shadows across our seas. Their sheer size and power is unrivaled in the aquatic realm.

In this blog post, we will share and explore about the 10 most giant shark species found in oceans around the world.

1. Whale Shark

The whale shark is hands down the largest fish in the ocean. These gentle giants have been known to reach astonishing lengths of 65 feet and weigh up to 75,000 pounds!

Despite their massive size, whale sharks are docile filter feeders that pose no threat to humans. Their diet consists mainly of plankton, krill, and small fish.

Whale sharks inhabit tropical and warm temperate waters around the world. Well-known aggregation sites include Western Australia, Belize, the Philippines, the Maldives, and the Galapagos Islands.

2. Basking Shark

Basking Shark

Coming in at number two is the basking shark. They inhabit temperate waters worldwide and prefer cooler temperatures.

Basking sharks are the second largest fish after the whale shark. The maximum recorded size is 40 feet and nearly 11 tons.

Like whale sharks, basking sharks are passive plankton feeders and harmless to humans. They swim with their enormous mouths wide open to filter feed.

3. Megamouth Shark

Megamouth Shark

The megamouth shark is one of the most elusive filter-feeding sharks. It reaches lengths of 18 feet and weighs up to 2,500 pounds.

To date, less than 100 sightings of megamouth sharks have been confirmed. Most encounters occurred in Pacific waters near Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines.

Megamouths are believed to vertically migrate up and down the water column, following concentrations of plankton. Little is known about their life history since so few have been studied.

4. Bluntnose Sixgill Shark

Bluntnose Sixgill Shark

The primitive-looking bluntnose sixgill shark inhabits deep waters worldwide. It grows to lengths of over 16 feet and can weigh 1,300 pounds.

These ancient sharks date back over 200 million years to the Triassic Period. Bluntnose sixgills are opportunistic predators that feed mostly on fish, rays, and smaller sharks.

Deepwater interests like undersea cables and submarines have provided rare glimpses of six gills in their natural habitat. Their numbers decreased due to overfishing but have rebounded since the 1990s.

5. Tiger Shark

Tiger Shark

The tiger shark is the ocean’s garbage disposal, eating just about anything it encounters. They inhabit tropical and subtropical waters and usually grow to 10-14 feet long.

The most giant tiger shark on record weighed over 18 feet long and nearly 2,000 pounds.

Tiger sharks have distinctive dark stripes along their bodies, which fade as they mature. They will eat fish, sea turtles, dolphins, seabirds, garbage, and anything that appears edible.

Although considered dangerous, unprovoked attacks on humans are quite rare. But tiger shark bites usually require medical attention due to their size and power.

6. Greenland Shark

Greenland Shark

The Greenland shark prowls the dark, frigid waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic. These lumbering giants reach lengths over 21 feet and weigh up to 2,200 pounds.

Greenland sharks grow extremely slowly and have exceptionally long life spans. Research estimates they live up to 400 years, with females reaching maturity around 150.

They will eat any meat they find, including fish, seals, dolphins, and moose swimming between islands. Their flesh contains a neurotoxin that makes them toxic for human consumption.

7. Great White Shark

Great White Shark

No shark list would be complete without the legendary great white shark. Made famous by the movie Jaws, great whites instill primal fear like no other marine predator.

Great whites inhabit calm, coastal waters around the world. The largest can reach lengths of 20 feet and weigh over 2.5 tons. Their bite force of over 4,000 psi is the strongest of any living animal.

When attacking prey, great whites rocket upward and strike with tremendous force. They prefer fatty pinnipeds like sea lions and seals, but the reason for occasional human attacks remains mysterious.

8. Pacific Sleeper Shark

Pacific Sleeper Shark

Reaching lengths over 15 feet, the Pacific sleeper shark cruises the chilly waters of the North Pacific and Arctic oceans. They are as wide as great white sharks but heavier, weighing up to 2,500 pounds.

Pacific sleepers prefer depths between 900 and 3,500 feet. They feed on fish, octopus, seals, sea lions and even whales. Their flesh carries a toxin that can induce memory loss in humans.

In 2015, researchers documented the deepest shark dive to date when a sleeper shark descended over 8,200 feet into the Kermadec Trench.

9. Giant Manta Ray

Giant Manta Ray

With a wingspan up to 29 feet, the giant manta ray is the largest ray species in the world. They inhabit tropical waters worldwide but congregate in known feeding areas.

Despite their menacing appearance, manta rays are harmless filter feeders that strain zooplankton and small fish from the water. Mantas move through the ocean by flapping their triangular pectoral fins like underwater wings.

Mantas frequent cleaning stations where small fish remove parasites from their skin. Divers often interact with mantas at these cleaning stations for unforgettable close encounters.

10. Sixgill Sawshark

Sixgill Sawshark

The sixgill sawshark is the largest of the sawsharks, reaching lengths of 15 feet. They inhabit deep tropical waters in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific, down to 4,000 feet.

Saw sharks get their name from the long, saw-like snout lined with sharp teeth for slashing and disabling prey like fish and squid. The sixgill’s teeth grow continuously and are regularly shed.

Deep sea fishing surveys indicate sixgill saw sharks are more abundant than previously believed. But all saw sharks are exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing due to their slow growth and reproduction.

The Ocean’s Gentle Giants

While sharks are often considered terrifying in movies, the largest species, like whale and basking sharks, are harmless plankton feeders. Even great whites and tiger sharks show little interest in humans as prey.

Seeing these ocean giants up close in scuba gear or from underwater vehicles is the thrill of a lifetime. As our understanding of sharks grows, we move further away from irrational fears toward awe and respect for their evolutionary perfection.

Human activities remain the biggest threat to large sharks worldwide. Conservation of these incredible creatures grows more urgent every day. If sharks can adapt to environmental challenges, maybe we can, too, before it’s too late. Learn here more about animals and pet rankings.