Sharks typically cruise around the ocean looking for prey at a leisurely 1.5 mph (2.4 kph). However there are some sharks that are built for speed. Some of these sharks have record breaking speeds and clock in as fast as cars. So who are these incredibly fast sharks? How fast can they swim? Here is a rundown of the three fastest sharks in the world and why they are able to move so quickly.
The Mako Shark is the fastest shark in the world. It can clock in at speeds of 60 mph (96 mph). The Mako Shark has an extremely streamlined body that is shaped like a torpedo that helps minimize drag as it cruises through the water. It also has a tail designed specifically for propulsion with powerful keels that helps it be an incredibly strong swimmer. Another biological adaptation that has helped the Mako Shark be the fastest shark in the water is its endothermic body. Endothermic bodies help regulate the warmth of the blood, so its body temperature is usually higher than the surrounding water. Heat is a form of energy so it is able to channel more energy efficiently to its muscle for faster speeds.
The Mako Shark is also a constant swimmer, swimming up to 36 miles (60 km) a day. Since it is an obligate ram breather, it has to swim in order to get oxygen. This form of oxygen delivery helps the Mako Shark stay a powerful swimmer. The Mako Shark is such a powerful swimmer, it is capable of jumping out of the water an impressive 30 m (9 ft) into the air–a behavior known as breaching. In order to leap this high the Mako Shark has to hit the water at 36 mph (57 kph). What’s even more impressive is a Mako Shark can breach the water repeatedly, gaining more and more momentum with each dive and leap. Typically, they leap three times out of the water in order to gain the momentum to jump the full height.
The Mako Shark’s speed is what makes it a phenomenal hunter. The Mako Shark hunts by spotting it’s prey with its impressive vision. Then it will swim underneath the prey hiding itself in the deep with its metallic blue countershading that provides a seamless camouflage. Once it is ready to strike, it will burst upwards, usually at speeds of around 46 mph (74 mph), attacking before the prey even knew it was there. It darts up and down and back and forth, tearing piece after piece of flesh from its prey until finally the prey is disabled and can’t fight back. Then the Mako Shark finishes it off.
Salmon Sharks are the second fastest sharks on the planet. They have been observed by naval ships swimming as fast as 50 mph (80.5 kph). Like the Mako Shark, the Salmon Shark has a streamlined body that is taper and the head and the tail, reducing the drag as it cruises through the water. Salmon Sharks also have endothermic bodies which helps them regulate their body temperature. This gives them an extreme advantage since their habitat lies in the extremely frigid waters of the Northern Pacific Ocean. This ability to pump warm blood to their muscles makes them much faster than their prey that is slowed by the cold waters.
Salmon Sharks are also very stocky, so they have extremely muscular bodies that help them propel even faster. They have large caudal fins with powerful keels that helps them swim forward faster with less energy. Salmon Sharks also have sharp dorsal and pectoral fins that help them extremely agile in the water, so they can make quick turns and flips when hunting their prey. They are also obligate ram feeders like Mako Sharks, so their oxygen delivery system helps power their muscles and maintain their endurance. They have also been observed breaching the water at 20 ft (6 m) about the water line.
Salmon Sharks are impressive hunters. Not only does their fast speeds give them a distinct advantage in the cold water, but they are extremely social sharks, so they will hunt in packs. They hunt in packs very similarly to wolves. Typically when they hunt in a pack they target schools of fish. They will engage in a coordinated group attack that confuses the fish and forces them to group even closer for safety. Salmon Sharks will take full advantage of this confusion and will dart in at lightning speeds averaging disarming and snatching their prey. Their incredible speed helps them feast quickly and ferociously.
Great White Shark
The Great White Shark is not only the largest most impressive hunter in the water, it is also the third fastest swimming shark. The Great White Shark can swim at 25 mph (60 kph) which is extremely impressive considering its massive body size. In fact, their huge size it what helps them propel so quickly. They move their powerful lunate tail and the movement is increased by the power of the force of their weight. Great White Sharks are also endothermic, so their warm blood powers their muscles.
Like both the Mako Shark and the Salmon Shark, the Great White Shark’s body is designed to reduce drag. The Great White Shark’s body is shaped like a torpedo and is flanked with large, thin pectoral and dorsal fins that help it glide and maneuver in the water. The Great White Shark uses this speed and agility to breach the water at impressive heights. Starting at a minimum of 21 mph (33 kph) the Great White Shark can leap out of the water a jaw-dropping 25 ft (8 m).
Its impressive speed is just one of the many evolutionary characteristics that has made the Great White Shark the ultimate ocean predator. Great White Sharks are very intelligent hunter. They cruise slowly through the water using their senses to spot and detect prey. Depending on the prey they will adapt their strategy, so they don’t just have one method of killing. However, Great White Sharks almost always burst forward with an extreme energy, take a large bite, then quickly swim away to avoid injury. They will then circle back around, patiently waiting to see if the prey is disabled. If the prey is disabled, the Great White Shark will move in quickly for the kill.
These three sharks are incredibly fast, clocking in a record-breaking speeds. All of these sharks achieve this speed with endothermic heat regulation, streamlined bodies, and powerful muscle groups. Their speed is the reason they are also some of the greatest hunters on earth.