The Gulf of Mexico is a truly unique body of water. It is the ninth largest body of water on the planet and is home to nearly 49 different species of shark. The Gulf of Mexico has a broad range of ocean ecosystems from shallow reefs to sea forests and has both shallow coastlines and deep ocean waters reaching 14,300 ft (4,384 m). This rich ecological diversity provides both abundant food sources and hospitable environments for a vast variety of sharks. Here are some of the most common sharks you will find in the Gulf of Mexico:
The Blacknose Shark is a type of Requiem Shark found in continental shelves along the coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico. The Blacknose Shark specifically loves to hunt in the seagrass beds around the western edge of Florida. It gets its name from its distinctive black markings on the tip of its nose. It is a smaller shark that grows to a maximum 4.3 ft (1.3 m).
Bonnethead Hammerhead Sharks
The Bonnethead Hammerhead Shark, also known as the Shovelhead Hammerhead, stays along the warm, tropical coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It has an unusually shaped hammerhead that is very round, and looks like a bonnet or shovel. Bonnethead Hammerhead Sharks are the only known sexually dismophist Hammerheads. They also have been observed to asexually reproduce.
Bull Sharks love hunting in the brackish waters of estuaries. Since 33 river systems flow into the Gulf of Mexico, it is an ideal home for these impressive hunters. Bull Sharks love hunting in river water so much they have been noted to migrate all the way from the Gulf of Mexico up to Illinois.
The Finetooth Shark loves to inhabit the shallow waters along the coasts rarely going into depths more than 66 ft (20 m). They breed in river estuaries and primarily eat Gulf Menhaden fish, so they thrive in the Gulf of Mexico. They are very fast swimmers and tend to hunt in large packs.
Florida Smoothhound Sharks
The Florida Smoothhound Shark, also knock as the Narrowfin Smoothhound Shark, is found primarily along the continental shelves around northeastern coast of Florida. The Florida Smoothhound Shark is a small species of shark that grows to a maximum of 3.6 ft (110 ft). It small size makes it an incredibly shy shark, so it is rarely seen or studied.
Great Hammerhead Sharks
Great Hammerhead Sharks are migratory but are found all over the coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico during the warmer months. They are the largest species of Hammerhead Sharks in the world, measuring 20 ft (6.1 m) in length. They also have the largest hammerhead which can range from 23-27% of their total body size.
Lemon Sharks live in the warm coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Since they prefer to hunt along the shoreline, they are the shark most likely to interact with humans in the Gulf of Mexico. Lemon Sharks are one of the most social sharks of the ocean and tend to live and hunt in large groups based on similar size and gender.
Nurse Sharks love the warm tropical shallows of the Gulf of Mexico and can be found generally in the southern regions. Nurse Sharks are the most docile sharks of the ocean and are known to spend their days lounging at the bottom of the ocean. Their docile nature makes them a huge tourist attraction for the Gulf of Mexico. Divers and snorkelers love to swim with Nurse Sharks in this area.
Oceanic Whitetip Sharks
The Oceanic Whitetip Shark is a migratory shark that is found in the tropical and subtropical waters all over the planet. The Oceanic Whitetip Shark is considered “the most dangerous shark in the world” by famed marine biologist Jacques Cousteau because of its ferocious group hunting style. However, since they are often only found in the deep, open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, humans rarely see them.
Sandbar Sharks love the warm muddy waters of river estuaries. So like the Bull Shark and the Finetooth Shark, it loves the Gulf of Mexico. The Sandbar Shark is one of the biggest coastal sharks in the world measuring up to 8.2 ft (2.5 m) in length. They often hunt in groups, using the murky estuary waters as camouflage.
Shortfin Mako Sharks
The Shortfin Mako Shark hunts in the deeper, warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico. They are the fastest swimming sharks on the planet, clocking in at speeds up to 60 mph (96 kph). They hunt the swordfish found in the Gulf of Mexico but will eat nearly anything. They are highly migratory, swimming an average of 36 miles a day. So the large body of the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect habitat for them.
Smooth Hammerhead Sharks
The Smooth Hammerhead Shark is another species of Hammerhead Shark found in the Gulf of Mexico. It is the second largest Hammerhead Shark in the world, measuring up to 16 ft (5 m) in length. The Smooth Hammerhead is only found in the southern tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico near Panama and Brazil, so they are harder to spot than some of the other sharks found in the Gulf
Common Thresher Sharks
Common Thresher Sharks live in the deep open ocean of the Gulf of Mexico. They are vertical migrants moving up and down the water column for warmer waters. The Common Thresher Shark is truly unique as it has an extremely long caudal fin that measuring nearly half its length. It uses this fin to trick and attack prey.
These are just a few of the 49 different species of shark found in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the other incredible sharks you can find are the Dusky Shark, Tiger Shark, Silky Shark, and even Whale Sharks. So there is an impressive range of diversity found across the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.