“Cute” isn’t usually a word associated with sharks. Kittens and bunnies and little baby chimpanzees, yes. Sharks? Not really. At least, not in the way we perceive other animals as cute. But if you take away all of your preconceived notions about how scary and dangerous sharks are and just look at them through the eyes of an innocent, you might just find that you feel like pinching some cheeks and talking baby talk. You can start by checking out these seven sharks that are the cutest of them all.
1. Blue Shark
What makes the blue shark so adorable are its gigantic black eyes and pouty mouth that bring to mind a surprised child. Blue sharks are big, granted, but their 12-foot long body is sleek and tapered, and their indigo blue skin is considered by many to be the most beautiful of all shark species. Male blue sharks bite females to show their interest, much like little kids rough house more intensely with the objects of their affection.
One not so cute thing about the blue shark is the fact that it will eat until it regurgitates to make more room, and then it’ll keep eating some more.
2. Chain Catshark
The chain catshark’s skin is yellow and brown with dark brown markings that resemble a chain, which is how this cutie got its name, and these markings help camouflage it from predators. Unlike most sharks, the chain catshark has green and yellow eyes that are more reptilian or feline than shark-like.
The chain catshark lives deep in the ocean, anywhere between 246 and 1,804 feet below the surface. They like to lay motionless on the ocean floor, and when they do, they look more like a lounging mermaid or a sleek serpent than a shark.
3. Dwarf Lantern Shark
The dwarf lantern shark is not only totally adorable, but it’s also got light-emitting organs called photophores that light up to help it blend in with the sunlit water when it’s hunting for prey close to the surface and to help it attract prey when it’s in deeper, darker waters, where it prefers to hide out most of the time.
But its cuteness comes from the fact that the dwarf lantern shark is teeny tiny, measuring just 7 inches when it’s fully-grown, which makes it small enough to fit in your hand. Dwarf lantern sharks live in very deep water, somewhere between 928 and 1,440 feet down. Perhaps that’s why they’re one of the most elusive shark species, only discovered in 1985 in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Columbia.
4. Greenland Shark
The Greenland shark has the expression of a silly, galumphing giant, with a tiny mouth buried far beneath its snout that looks like it’s always smiling. These are the northernmost sharks in the world, living around Greenland and Iceland. In the summer, they live as far down as 2,400 feet below the ocean’s surface, where it’s cold enough for them. In the winter, they swim closer to the surface and like to feed on reindeer and even polar bears that fall off the ice and into the water.
Greenland sharks are the slowest sharks known to mankind. They swim at a pace of just one to three miles per hour, possibly because the water is so cold that they simply can’t move any faster. They’re also almost completely blind, thanks to parasites that attach themselves to the shark’s eyeballs. Some scientists think that these parasites are bioluminescent and help attract prey for the blind-as-a-bat Greenland shark when it’s summering down in the deepest depths where light can’t penetrate.
5. Pygmy Shark
If you look at a pygmy shark at just the right angle, you’d swear you were looking at a cute little sock monkey. Its big head features an under-slung jaw, and white markings around its mouth give it the appearance of a little kid wearing too much lipstick.
Pygmy sharks, like dwarf lantern sharks, are tiny compared to most of their cousins, reaching a maximum length of about 8 inches. They also have one of the deepest habitats, spending most of their time around 6,550 feet below the ocean’s surface. The pygmy shark’s belly glows in the dark, helping to illuminate its path and attract prey.
6. Whale Shark
Okay, maybe the whale shark is too big to be considered cute, but if you discount the fact that it’s the largest fish in the sea, reaching lengths of up to 40 feet, and focus on its wide, flat head, gently curved snout, and super-wide, narrow mouth (until it’s opened!) the whale shark can easily win your heart and put you in that cheek-pinching mood.
The fact that the whale shark is the largest fish in the sea doesn’t mean it preys on other large animals. Known as a “filter feeder,” the whale shark’s diet consists mostly of plankton, or microscopic plants and animals that float in the ocean’s currents, which it collects in a filter apparatus in its mouth. Whale sharks like tropical waters, and they’re very sweet, docile animals, sometimes even allowing swimmers to hitch a ride on their backs.
7. Hammerhead Shark
Maybe a little more on the strange side than on the cute side, hammerhead sharks are nevertheless adorable creatures with insanely far-apart eyes, which reside on either end of the shark’s mallet-shaped head and give them an excellent view of surrounding waters and nearby prey. Their favorite meal is stingrays, which these sharks can find hiding under the sand without much trouble, thanks to their particularly sensitive ampullae of Lorenzini. This sensory organ, which is unique to sharks, allows them to sense electrical fields.
Hammerhead sharks grow up to 20 feet in length and live in warmer waters. Although they’re considered dangerous, they don’t typically attack humans, but at any rate, it’s easy to see them coming due to their extra tall and pointy dorsal fin.