Types of Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea - Owlcation - Education
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Types of Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea

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I am absolutely obsessed with all things shark. From the dwarf lanternshark to the massive great white, I've got you covered.

Yes, there are sharks in the Mediterranean Sea, though they are seldom seen, and even more seldom come anywhere close to people. They are there, but in ever-decreasing numbers, as they are being fished to extinction.

The Mediterranean Sea is an inland sea spanning three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe. It covers a massive 965,000 square miles, and its warm waters are home to at least 47 different species of shark, at least 15 of which could be dangerous to humans.

Yet despite the millions of people using its 28,600 miles of coastline every year, there have been very few reported Mediterranean shark attacks, and fewer deaths. With very saline, warm waters and little tidal movement, the Mediterranean Sea is home to an abundance of sea creatures, giving the sharks plenty of food to live off of.

Some of the waters in the Mediterranean reach a depth of over 15,000 feet, although the average depth is just 4,000 feet. At the Straits of Gibraltar—a nine-mile gap between Spain and Africa—the Mediterranean Sea opens into the vast Atlantic Ocean and offers a migratory path for many pelagic (open sea) sharks to traverse the ocean to the USA, which some species of sharks do unfailingly every year, returning to the deep waters of the Mediterranean to hatch their young.

Map of the Mediterranean

Map of the Mediterranean

Types of Sharks in the Mediterranean

It is believed that there are as many as 47 different species of shark in the Mediterranean Sea (if not more). While some are deep-water dwellers, usually found at depths of 200+ meters (where no casual swimmer will ever encounter them), others can be seen basking in the warm, shallow waters closer to shore.

But don't panic—shark attacks are very rare, especially for casual bathers. The odds of experiencing an unprovoked shark encounter are extremely low, and the odds of it being fatal lower still. You're more likely to be killed by a vending machine than by a shark!

Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas)

Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas)

Dangerous Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea

The three most dangerous sharks on the planet are believed to be present in the Mediterranean.

  1. Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), though there were only 10 sightings between 1985 and 2015.
  2. Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), though its presence has not been confirmed.
  3. Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas); again its presence is suspected but not confirmed.

There are many other dangerous sharks in the Mediterranean, including:

  • Blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)
  • Smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena)
  • Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini)
  • Great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
  • Shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
  • Grey nurse or sandtiger shark (Carcharias taurus)
  • Sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus)
  • Spinner shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna)
  • Copper shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus)
  • Blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
  • Sharp-nose sevengill shark (Heptranchias perlo)
  • Oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus)

The "Requiem Sharks" of the family Carcharhinidae are present in quite large numbers in the Mediterranean.

Other Sharks in the Mediterranean

Common NameScientific NameDangerous to Humans?

Smalleye hammerhead

Sphyrna tudes

no

Whitefin hammerhead

Sphyrna couardi

no

Milk shark

Rhizoprionodon acutus

no

Silky shark

Carcharhinus falciformis

yes

Bignose shark

Carcharhinus altimus

possibly

Smoothhound

Mustelus mustelus

no

Schoolshark or tope

Galeorhinus galeus

no

Blackmouth catshark

Galeus melastomus

no

Nursehound

Scyliorhinus stellaris

no

Porbeagle

Lamna nasus

no

Longfin Mako

Isurus paucus

potentially

Smalltooth sandtiger

Odontaspis ferox

no

Smoothback angelshark

Squatina oculata

no

Sawback angelshark

Squatina aculeata

no

Angelshark

Squatina squatina

no, but can be aggressive if disturbed

Angular Roughshark

Oxynotus centrina

no

Cookiecutter shark

Isistius brasiliensis

can be

Longnose spurdog

Squalus blainvillei

no

Piked dogfish

Squalus acanthias

no

Little sleeper shark

Somniosus rostratus

no

Velvet Belly shark

Etmopterus spinax

no

Kitefin shark

Dalatias licha

no

Portuguese Dogfish

Centroscymnus coelopis

no

Little Gulper shark

Centrophorus uyato

no

Gulper shark

Centrophorus granulosus

no

Sharpnose Sixgill shark

Hexanchus nakamurai

potentially

Bluntnose Sixgill shark

Hexanchus griseus

potentially

Thresher shark

Alopias vulpinus

tail-whip potentially dangerous

Bigeye Thresher shark

Alopias superciliosus

no

Dusky shark

Carcharhinus obscurus

potentially

Silky Shark (Carcharhinus falciformis)

Silky Shark (Carcharhinus falciformis)

Are the Sharks in the Mediterranean Dangerous?

Many sharks in the Mediterranean Sea are virtually never seen and so pose no danger to humans in the water. Still, it's a good idea for bathers and others doing watersports to be on the lookout, just in case.

Only the "big three" mentioned above—the great white, bull and tiger shark—have teeth designed for tearing. Other sharks' teeth are designed for gripping, and so are less likely to cause fatal wounds.

What's more, most sharks—even the great white shark—only bite humans to check out what they are. They aren't interested in eating us. For this reason, it's usually more appropriate to say "shark encounter" than "shark attack." Still, because of the size of the great white, even an exploratory bite by this shark can be fatal or cause serious injury.

Many smaller sharks will bite only when caught in fishermen's nets or on lines. But because even little sharks have powerful teeth, all sharks should be treated with the utmost caution at all times.

Shark Attacks in the Mediterranean

CountryShark Attacks From 1900 to 2015Fatal Attacks

Italy

50

11

Egypt

34

9

Spain

33

7

Croatia

25

12

Greece

24

13

France

10

3

Malta

5

3

Libya

5

2

Turkey

4

2

Montenegro

3

2

Lebanon

3

2

Tunisia

3

1

Israel

3

0

Monaco

1

1

Algeria

1

1

Slovenia

1

0

Shark Conservation

Though humans are conditioned to fear sharks (thanks, Jaws), we're the ones to be afraid of. Here are the main ways humans are endangering sharks.

  • Poaching: Though it is illegal, poachers will remove sharks' fins to sell for shark-fin soup, leaving them to sink to the bottom of the ocean and die.
  • Illegal Hunting: Some people hunt sharks for sport, hoping to come away with a set of jaws as a trophy.
  • Accidental Catch: Fishermen's trawlers and longlines, as well as nets set up along coastlines to keep sharks away from beaches, are responsible for the deaths of many sharks.
  • Pollution: Human-made debris—from plastic and metal to toxic waste—collects in sharks' bodies, killing them.

Unsurprisingly, when shark populations decline, their ecosystems suffer. For this reason, among many others, it's critical that humans start to conserve these incredible animals. For more information about shark conservation, check out the "Shark Protections" section on the Smithsonian's Ocean website or this report by the NOAA.

Sources

© 2012 sharkfacts

Comments

roberttracy70@yahoo.com on July 14, 2020:

Id just passed through the masena strait and heading to Greece . I was doing my usual 360 look around and coming back to dead ahead on my boat when I saw this snakelike body starting to dive . The curving part I saw was about 15 feet long about 1.5 feet wide heading towards me , it had strips like a mackrel on its back , but I saw no dorsal fin or tail fin . So I put my engine into neutral and drifted , there was no bump so I guisted it was ok and started to drive again , looking back I dident see anything and allways wondered what it was , I have looked at shark piks and nothing matches . Fast whales fit but not the markings .

Bayou boy on January 02, 2020:

I live in South Florida on the Atlantic side. In the last five or six years we have had an extraordinary number of shark incidents off the beaches near West Palm Beach. We also have had sightings of groups of great white sharks coming in very close to the shore. I understand it is very rare for great white sharks to travel together but for some reason they've been seen in groups here. Also we have spinner sharks which throw themselves out of the water in a spinning motion. But I think that they are not a threat to humans.

Bernie on April 02, 2019:

I was in the med with my son and lots of little silver fish started jumping out of the water beside us, when I looked down there was a little shark 2 maybe 3 feet zigzagging along, honored to see it but..... We played sandcastles for the rest of the afternoon

Kurt on October 06, 2018:

There has been no bull sharks ever in the Mediterranean. It could change now the hypersaline lakes along the Suez channel has been washed out. However, the sharks previously thought to have been bull sharks were the uncommon species Carcharhinus amboinensis, also known as the pig-eye shark. It is virtually identical to the bull shark and only experienced experts can tell them apart.

zig and sharko on July 29, 2018:

huh wowww

Bull shark on July 08, 2018:

I can coferm presance of bull sharks in the MED. l have photos to proove

shark101 on May 20, 2018:

Im doing a project on the Mediterranean Sea and you are telling me there are no shortfin mako sharks

Hugo on April 04, 2017:

Hi

I was just wondering since I go to Ibiza every summer if there were any risks of sharks there because I'm really scared of them

sharkfacts (author) from UK on August 11, 2016:

You are entitled to your opinion. Can think of a million situations where an otherwise benign shark becomes dangerous, so to that extent your comment is true.

One of those situations is swimming in their environment, perhaps when they are hungry.

Humans don't have to swim in the open ocean. Sharks do.

shark on August 11, 2016:

No shark is dangerous, there are only dangerous situations. I think this post is motivated by movies like jaws but not by scientific facts. I wonder if a similar post would be made about dogs or mosquito species which are a lot more dangerous then sharks.

Shame on you for fueling the fear of people, rather than helping to protect these ecological so important predetors!

Danny on September 08, 2015:

Great read I have been very interested in sharks since a young age. Just come back from Majorca and every time I go in the sea snorkelling I find myself wanting to See a shark don't know what I would do if I did see one tho. I read there was a sighting early this year there in shallow water possibly a young great white but wasn't confirmed

ma on August 12, 2015:

Bullshark catch in iskenderun Turkey is confirmed

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I29p1jWVI84

Martin Allan from Sunny Scotland on October 30, 2014:

Great article. I've swam and snorkelled in the waters of many of the Greek islands and also Cyprus. I've never ever seen a shark (phew!), but have seen many other magnificent creatures.

Great hub!

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on July 10, 2014:

Great Article :) I snorkeled around Sardina, never saw a shark, but I heard that Great Whites breed there :) Thanks for sharing.

a on July 05, 2014:

How about shallow waters?

sharkfacts (author) from UK on March 31, 2014:

Sounds like a nurse shark. They are harmless so long as you don't step on them.

sarah on March 28, 2014:

I was snorkeling in southern Italy a few years ago I saw a small shark on the sea floor, close to the shore and it resembled a catfish and did not seem phased or aggressive at all. I have been trying to find out since then what sort of shark this could be. I think it could have been a baby nurse shark. Any advice? Thanks in advance.

sharky on March 15, 2013:

i lov sharks the thing is i get scared if i see one in the sea but i think there really beautiful creatures

sharkfacts (author) from UK on February 19, 2013:

Tourists Boards play down their existence, so as not to frighten off hordes of holidaymakers. The risk of shark attack in the Med is pretty low, all the same :)

Bram from Amsterdam on February 18, 2013:

Damn I'm really afraid of sharks. But there is so much I never knew about sharks. I actually thought they didn't exist in the Med.

sharkfacts (author) from UK on December 30, 2012:

The rise in jellyfish numbers directly correspond to the decline in shark numbers. This is a growing problem along the Med's coastline, and jellyfish stings can ruin a holiday just as much as a small shark bite. The ecological balance of the Med is being upset by the lack of the top predators - sharks. There could be worse to come - jellyfish is just the start of it.

nuffsaidstan on December 29, 2012:

That's the last time i'm swimming in the Med!, my father in law used to live in Menorca one of his friends accidentally swam into a shoal of jellyfish, his scars were amazing.

sharkfacts (author) from UK on December 15, 2012:

@Interested, I have not heard of any bull sharks in any rivers in Europe (being sharks that can live in fresh water). There may well be smaller and less dangerous types but have not heard of any. Sorry about the late reply - only just saw your comment.

sharkfacts (author) from UK on December 15, 2012:

Hey you are welcome! Look forward to reading your articles (hubs) when you get them written. You didn't have to join just to comment, but this is a great community and a super platform to write on.

em8621 on December 15, 2012:

I have only signed up to hubpages after stumbling across your hub on google. I have always been terrified of sharks, so much so I won't even go in the sea around the UK, yet I find them fascinating to research. My dad is a diving instructor and has swum with them many times so it's strange i'm so scared. Thank you for providing such a fascinating and insightful hub :)

Interested on September 25, 2012:

I would like to know if rivers in Europe are safe of sharks or not.

sharkfacts (author) from UK on August 21, 2012:

Thanks for taking the time to comment :)

idigwebsites from United States on August 20, 2012:

I'm always fascinated in everything about the sea... Thanks for posting this great hub! :)

sharkfacts (author) from UK on August 18, 2012:

Check it out here, this a complete listing of all reported shark attacks in the Mediterranean Sea, but it doesn't name the beaches, just the areas - https://hubpages.com/education/Mediterranean-Shark...

CyprusDude on August 18, 2012:

I absouloutley love snorkeling at coral bay and ive seen a octopus there once.....

(coral bay is a few miles away from tomb of the kings road)

but ive been watching shark week programs and have really been putten of going in the sea......

i usualy go quite far out to sea accidentally and i get really panicky when my dad goes further out and further....

has there been any shark attacks on coral bay or pisouri bay

sharkfacts (author) from UK on August 13, 2012:

It is quite surprising how little we actually do know about sharks, but thanks to shark tagging programs, we are learning more all the time. Thanks for stopping by and commenting :)

Christopher J Wood from Florida, USA on August 13, 2012:

Very interesting and well written hub. I have always enjoyed learning about sharks, Shark Week was created for people like me who are always wanting to know more about them. Voted Up and Interesting!

sharkfacts (author) from UK on July 26, 2012:

I'm not sure where Coral Bay is? That said, even if it is in area where there are dangerous sharks, the chances of being bitten are very low, so don't worry. You are statistically more likely to get struck by lightning! I'm sure your Dad would not take you anywhere that is dangerous, so relax and have a great time :)

Molly on July 26, 2012:

My dads taking me to coral bay snorkeling and I hate sharks,I'm scared to death of sharks should I be worried about getting bitten

ABC on July 09, 2012:

its all waste

sharkfacts (author) from UK on May 10, 2012:

Have a great time, and a read of this hub too, just in case ;) -

https://hubpages.com/education/How-to-Avoid-a-Shar...

Bri on May 10, 2012:

Thanks for the quick reply, looks like we will be snorkeling this weekend

sharkfacts (author) from UK on May 10, 2012:

There are very few of them left, compared to what there was even 50 years ago. The fishermen have finned a huge number of them, and the rest lost through being accidental by-catch.

I would take your daughter snorkeling. There are very, very few shark attacks in the Med - 36 in the last 150 years. https://hubpages.com/education/Mediterranean-Shark...

Bri on May 09, 2012:

Hi there

Why is it sharks in the med are rarley seen, i live in Cyprus and have a bad phobia about sharks. i want to take my Daughter snorkeling but will we be safe.

sharkfacts (author) from UK on January 28, 2012:

Glad to help :)

Sondra from Neverland on January 28, 2012:

Finding a niche and sticking to it is a smart idea :) plus who doesn't love sharks?! My three kids will love this information too. Its great for school reports.

sharkfacts (author) from UK on January 27, 2012:

Thank you Ardie :) I only write about sharks which are my passion, so I hope you enjoy reading about them.

Sondra from Neverland on January 27, 2012:

Wow, this is QUITE an impressive Hub for a beginner. You obviously really know what you are doing! The information is in-depth, the layout is amazing and the videos are fun :) Welcome to HubPages, you'll love writing here and I can't wait to see what else you offer.