What Are Sharks Classified As?

Discover the captivating classification of sharks, from phylum to species. Unveil the secrets that make these creatures both fearsome and fascinating.

Imagine diving into the depths of the ocean, surrounded by the mysterious wonders of marine life. As you marvel at the vibrant coral reefs and schools of colorful fish, your attention is suddenly captured by the mesmerizing silhouette of a shark gliding effortlessly through the water. But have you ever stopped to wonder, what exactly are sharks classified as? In this article, we will explore the intriguing classification of these awe-inspiring creatures, unraveling the secrets that make sharks both fearsome and fascinating. Get ready to embark on a journey into the world of these magnificent creatures, where we will unveil the captivating classification of sharks.

Phylum

Chordata

Sharks are classified under the phylum Chordata, which includes all animals that possess a notochord, a dorsal hollow nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, and a post-anal tail at some point during their development. This phylum is incredibly diverse and includes many familiar animals, such as fish, birds, mammals, and reptiles. Sharks belong to a specific class within the chordates, known as Chondrichthyes.

Class

Chondrichthyes

The class Chondrichthyes comprises cartilaginous fish, which are characterized by having skeletons made of cartilage rather than bone. Sharks, along with rays and skates, are all part of this class. Chondrichthyes are also distinguished by their paired fins, gill slits, and streamlined bodies. This class is further divided into two superorders: Galeomorphii and Squalomorphii.

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Superorder

Galeomorphii

Squalomorphii

Sharks are further classified into two superorders: Galeomorphii and Squalomorphii. The Galeomorphii superorder includes the most well-known shark families, such as the Carcharhinidae (requiem and hammerhead sharks) and Sphyrnidae (hammerhead sharks). On the other hand, the Squalomorphii superorder includes families like Hexanchidae (cow sharks) and Squalidae (dogfish sharks).

Order

Carcharhiniformes

Lamniformes

Orectolobiformes

Heterodontiformes

Hexanchiformes

Pristiophoriformes

Squaliformes

Carcharhiniformes

Sharks are further classified into different orders based on their characteristics and features. The orders of sharks include Carcharhiniformes, Lamniformes, Orectolobiformes, Heterodontiformes, Hexanchiformes, Pristiophoriformes, and Squaliformes. Each order consists of specific families and genera.

Family

Triakidae

Sphyrnidae

Lamnidae

Carcharhinidae

Orectolobidae

Hemiscylliidae

Heterodontidae

Hexanchidae

Pristiophoridae

Squalidae

Within each order, sharks are further categorized into different families. Some common shark families include Triakidae (houndsharks), Sphyrnidae (hammerhead sharks), Lamnidae (mackerel sharks), Carcharhinidae (requiem and hammerhead sharks), and Orectolobidae (carpet sharks). Each family consists of several species of sharks, each with unique characteristics and adaptations to their specific environments.

Genus

Carcharhinus

Sphyrna

Galeocerdo

Hemiscyllium

Chiloscyllium

Negaprion

Ginglymostoma

Cephaloscyllium

Prionace

Isurus

Pristiophorus

Squalus

Sharks within each family are further divided into genera, which are groups of closely related species. Some notable shark genera include Carcharhinus (requiem sharks), Sphyrna (hammerhead sharks), Galeocerdo (tiger sharks), Hemiscyllium (bamboo sharks), and Prionace (mako sharks). Each genus consists of multiple species with unique variations in their appearance, behavior, and habitat preferences.

Species

Carcharhinus leucas

Sphyrna lewini

Galeocerdo cuvier

Hemiscyllium ocellatum

Chiloscyllium punctatum

Negaprion brevirostris

Ginglymostoma cirratum

Cephaloscyllium ventriosum

Prionace glauca

Isurus oxyrinchus

Pristiophorus nudipinnis

Squalus acanthias

At the most specific level of classification, sharks are categorized into different species. Each species represents a distinct and unique type of shark with specific characteristics and often occupies a particular geographic range. Some examples of shark species include Carcharhinus leucas (bull shark), Sphyrna lewini (scalloped hammerhead), Galeocerdo cuvier (tiger shark), Hemiscyllium ocellatum (epaulette shark), and Prionace glauca (blue shark).

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Size

Small

Medium

Large

Giant

Sharks exhibit a wide range of sizes, with some species being relatively small while others reach enormous proportions. Generally, shark sizes can be categorized into four broad categories: small, medium, large, and giant. Small sharks, such as the dogfish shark, can measure just a few feet in length, while medium-sized sharks, like reef sharks, can range from 3 to 5 feet. Large sharks, such as the great white shark, can reach lengths of over 20 feet, and giant sharks, like the whale shark, can grow to be the largest fish in the world, measuring up to 40 feet in length.

Habitat

Marine

Saltwater

Coral reefs

Open ocean

Sharks occupy a variety of habitats within the marine ecosystem. As saltwater creatures, they are found in oceans all around the world. Sharks can be observed in a range of environments, including coastal areas, coral reefs, and the open ocean. Some species, such as the reef sharks, are exclusively found in coral reef ecosystems, while others, like the great white shark, are known to venture into deeper waters of the open ocean.

Diet

Carnivorous

Fish

Marine mammals

Seals

Sea lions

Turtles

Seabirds

Squids

Crustaceans

Sharks are carnivorous predators that feed on a variety of prey. Their diet consists mainly of fish, such as herring, mackerel, and tuna. However, depending on the species and their habitat, sharks can also consume marine mammals like seals and sea lions, as well as sea turtles, seabirds, squids, and crustaceans. Sharks are apex predators in their ecosystems and play a crucial role in maintaining the balance and health of marine food webs.

In conclusion, sharks are fascinating creatures that belong to the phylum Chordata and the class Chondrichthyes. They are further classified into superorders, orders, families, genera, and species, each with their own distinct characteristics and adaptations. Sharks come in a wide range of sizes and occupy various marine habitats, feeding primarily on a carnivorous diet. As vital members of the marine ecosystem, sharks play a significant role in maintaining the balance and diversity of our oceans.

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