You’ve all heard of the world’s giant sharks and the oceans of the past. The megalodon, great white shark and whale shark get the most attention, but did you know there are a shocking number of shark species that can fit in the palm of your hand? The problem with ranking these tiny predators is that they are extremely difficult to catch, and the true size of a shark during puberty is even more difficult to determine.
# 8 The smallest shark in the world: Dwarf Lanternshark
Dwarf Lantern Shark (Etmopterus perryi) holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest shark in the world. After its discovery, he threw off the playful dwarf shark, like the previous record holder. These sharks mature up to 6.3 inches for males and 7.4 inches for females, making them smaller on average when both genders are considered. Like all flashlight sharks, dwarf flashlight sharks are also bioluminescent.
These sharks give birth to live puppies, but their litter size is only two or three puppies at a time. They also have a much smaller range than many of the other species mentioned, as they have been confirmed to only inhabit the continental slope regions around Colombia and Venezuela. Like many other species, the pygmy lantern shark is also vulnerable to accidental by-catch in deep sea fisheries. Despite the lack of study of the species, it is expected that they will be able to avoid threatening population losses due to the fact that the lower end of their depth range is lower than that of the unregulated commercial fishery in the area at an altitude of about 2000 feet.
The real problem in compiling an accurate ranking of the smallest sharks in the world is the complete lack of reliable information on almost all the species in question. Because they are deep sea or seabed sharks, they are extremely rare for even scientists to study. Some of the species mentioned above have been identified as separate species based on the discovery of only one animal, which is referred to as the holotype. As more of the ocean is explored and more information on already known species emerges, it is only a matter of time before more data on these tiny sharks emerge.
# 7 World’s Smallest Shark: Puffer Dwarf Shark
Spiny Dwarf Shark (Squaliolus laticaudus) is much more widespread than any of the sharks we talked about earlier. Although their population is still fragmented, they can be found along the coasts of continents and various islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Inhabited at depths ranging from 30 to 5,900 feet, they spend most of their time at more moderate depths ranging from 200 to 2,500 feet.
These tiny sharks give birth to live puppies in litters of three to five individuals, which are only 3.15 inches long at birth. At puberty, they grow to about 5.9 inches for males and 6.7-7.8 inches for females. The spiked dwarf shark was previously considered the smallest shark in the world before the discovery of the shark that ranks first on our list.
6. The smallest shark in the world: the dwarf ribbon-tailed shark.
Dwarf finned cat sharks (Eridacnis Radcliffe) live at shallower depths in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific region. They primarily inhabit the continental shelf and upper slope levels at 230–2500 feet. Threatened by the penetration of deep sea shrimp trawlers in regions around India and other Southeast Asian countries, it is suspected that these small sharks may escape devastation of the population, retreating below the depths suitable for trawling. Dwarf sharks with ribbed tails also maintain a population off the coast of Yemen and in the Gulf of Aden, where there is no commercial fishing.
These small sharks reach sexual maturity around 7.4 inches for males and 6.3 inches for females, but the largest recorded specimen reached around 9 inches.
# 5 The smallest shark in the world: the little dwarf shark
Little pygmy shark (Squalolus other) is the second smallest shark in the world, and this tiny shark is the first to live exclusively in the Pacific Ocean. Growing to just 8.7 inches, the small dwarf shark actually inhabits all layers of the ocean except the abyssopelagic zone, depending on the time of day. They migrate to warmer, higher layers of the ocean to feed at night, and return to the deep bathypelagic zone during the day. These little sharks migrate effectively from roughly 500 feet to over 6,500 feet in one day.
The small dwarf shark is another species that has settled on the continental slopes, making these spectacular migrations possible. They are found in highly fragmented populations near Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan, but this division has not affected their numbers as they are considered widespread and of least concern. Due to the tremendous depth at which they can be found, it is suspected that there are many habitats in which they have not even been discovered yet.
# 4 The smallest shark in the world: the Panamanian ghost cat
A close relative of the Atlantic Ghost Cat Shark is the Panamanian Ghost Cat Shark (Apristurus stenseni), and this shark is found only off the coast of Panama, as the name suggests. These cat sharks grow no more than 9 inches tall. Like all cat sharks, the Panamanian ghost shark feeds from below; however, this species is commonly found at depths of 3,000 to 3,200 feet.
The Panamanian ghost cat shark is nocturnal, spending almost all of its hunting and other activities at night. Unlike most shark species, this shark lays eggs with its young. Due to the lack of information on this particular species, the exact size of their litter is unknown. So little is known about these feline sharks that their conservation status is listed as scarce by the IUCN.
# 3 The smallest shark in the world: Atlantic Ghost Catshark
Atlantic Ghost Cat Shark (Apristurus atlanticus) is another deep-sea inhabitant of the Atlantic Ocean. This shark lives on the continental slope of the British Isles and Madeira, mostly at depths of at least 4,900 feet. They can be recognized by the extreme anterior position of both dorsal fins. Their elongated eyes are equivalent to 5% of their entire body length, which gives them a feline appearance and is the origin of their name.
These sharks are extremely rare and little is known about their feeding, reproductive or behavioral habits. They are believed to eat small baits and measure around 9.25 inches in length, making them one of the smallest sharks in the world.
# 2 The smallest shark in the world: African flashlight shark
African Lantern Sharks (Somniosidae tips) averages about 9.4 inches in length, and they are found off the coast of Africa. Native to the continental slope on the West African coast, this species lives in a wide range of depths from 980 to 3280 feet. African lantern sharks are bottom dwellers and are known to be caught as a by-catch in the commercial shrimp fishery.
As bottom dwellers, they spend a lot of time in the dark, but there are suspicions that they may use their inherent glow to confuse predators or attract their prey. Like many of the animals on this list, African lantern sharks are rarely seen and studied, but they are believed to give birth to live young, unlike many other shark species, which we’ll talk about shortly.
The smallest shark in the world # 1: Green Lanternshark
The Green Lantern Shark (Etmopterus virens) is the first small shark to make our list, and the largest recorded specimen reaches a maximum length of 10.2 inches. They live in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, the Central Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. Males of this species tend to average about 7 inches in length, while females are larger than 9 inches. Meanwhile, the little green lantern sharks are about 3.5 inches tall and are called puppies.
Despite its small size, this shark attacks much larger prey by pouncing on it. Squids and octopuses are a favorite food source, and some green lantern sharks have been found to have eyes and beaks in their stomachs that were so large that they would have to spread their jaws to even swallow them. These sharks are bioluminescent and usually live from 1200 feet to 3000 feet.
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