Top 15 Shark Species in Florida

Florida is home to more than 40 species of shark, but most of them are not considered a threat to people. In fact, shark bites are incredibly rare. Sharks themselves are fascinating creatures that deserve our respect.

So when you go swimming on the Florida beaches, be aware of the sharks possibly swimming in the water near you.

What sharks live in Florida’s waters?

Florida’s waters are inhabited by several shark species. Some wander near the shorelines and others explore the deep waters. Below, you’ll find information on some of the most common species of sharks.

1) Bull Sharks

When people think of visible sharks in Florida, bull sharks are typically the variety that pops into their minds first. These sharks are found in fresh and salt water. When scuba diving, you’re likely to see this variety of sharks. They have a large, wide nose that helps distinguish them.

2) Great Hammerhead Shark

Great hammerhead sharks are the largest type of hammerhead sharks. These sharks have a distinct spread-out head (like a hammer) and are typically gentle. They’re more curious than anything. You’ll see this shark variety swimming in a school with other great hammerheads.

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3) Lemon Sharks

Lemon sharks are named after their yellow-brown skin. This type of shark is usually found in the Atlantic Ocean. Lemon sharks are rarely involved in shark attacks, as they are usually afraid of human interactions.

4) Tiger Sharks

Tiger sharks are named after the dark stripes seen on the side of their bodies. It’s best to be cautious around this type of shark, though there are safe ways to interact with tiger sharks if you choose to dive with them.

5) Scalloped Hammerhead

Scalloped hammerhead sharks have rounded noses, making it easy to dig in the sand for their prey. They usually eat squid, small sharks, and mackerel.

6) Silky Shark

The Silky Shark is a small shark that can be found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. It is a member of the family Carcharhinidae shark family. The Silky Shark typically grows to a length of about 8 feet. The Silky Shark has a slender body with pointed fins and a long snout. Its skin is smooth, giving it its name, and it has light blue eyes.

7) Bonnethead Shark

Bonnetheads are a type of hammerhead shark that has a similar head shape but are on average smaller at between 3 and 4 feet in length. They prefer shallow water so you may spot them close to shore. These sharks swim in zigzag patterns around the seafloor, looking for food. They mostly eat crabs, shrimp, and other small invertebrates.

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8) Blacktip Shark

Black tips are a type of shark that commonly migrates along Florida’s coast in the winter. They are usually found deep in the water during the summer.

8) Blacknose Shark

The shark has a dark tip on its snout and no interdorsal ridge. It has small pectoral fins and dorsal fins with short rear tips.

9) Sharpnose Shark

The Atlantic sharpnose shark is a small shark with a streamlined body. It gets its name from its long, pointy snout. Atlantic sharpnose sharks are found in the western Atlantic Ocean and are commonly caught in U.S. waters from Virginia to Texas.

10) Spinner Shark

Some spinner sharks are named for their habit of leaping out of the water and spinning around three times in the air before landing back in the water. Some spinner sharks hunt in large groups, spinning around and around to attract smaller fish with their mouths open wide.

a sandbar shark swimming near fish

11) Sandbar Shark

Sandbar sharks are related to bull sharks so they look similar. They are known for their long pectoral fins, tall dorsal fin, and pale color.

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a dusky shark swimming near fish

12) Dusky Shark

Dusky sharks are big, ocean predators that can grow up to 400 pounds. They are known for their powerful jaws and sharp teeth. They are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, and make long seasonal migrations all the way from the equator to the poles.

The Dusky Shark looks like the sandbar shark, but the sandbar shark has a smaller dorsal fin.

two nurse sharks swimming along the ocean floor

13) Nurse Shark

Nurse sharks are generally slow and sluggish creatures that spend a lot of their time resting on the ocean’s bottom. They usually rest in groups during the day, with up to 40 individuals piled on top of one another.

a whale shark sticking its mouth above water

14) Whale Shark

Whales sharks are the largest shark species inhabiting tropical waters and warm temperate seas around the world. These large sharks can live 75 years, grow as large as 65 feet, and weigh over 10 tons.

Whale Sharks inhabit the northern waters surrounding Florida during the summer months and migrate to warmer waters in the Caribbean during winter. Whale sharks are often found offshore in deep water, during their seasonal migrations.

a mako shark swimming in the ocean

15) Mako Shark

Mako sharks are one of the most aggressive shark species. Makos feed on a variety of prey, including tuna, swordfish, other sharks, and dolphins. They live and hunt in offshore waters, far from shore. You would not want to encounter one in the open ocean because they can swim up to 40 mph.

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a great white shark swimming in the open ocean

Are there great white sharks in Florida?

The great white shark has been spotted off the coast of Florida from time to time. With the help of OCEARCH, a non-profit marine group, researchers are gathering valuable information on how great white sharks navigate through the ocean. Because of their tracking devices, researchers are able to show that great white sharks do indeed swim relatively close to Florida’s beaches. Some of these sharks have been shown to swim as far south as the Florida Keys and as far north as Nova Scotia, Canada!

They are massive and mesmerizing sharks that are known to swim in the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean, and other offshore waters across the globe.

What beach in Florida has the most sharks?

New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County has been nicknamed the Shark Attack Capital of the World. This area of Florida has the most shark attacks on an annual average, but they reportedly aren’t severe injuries (source). The tidal flow in the area brings more baitfish close to shore which ultimately attracts more sharks to the shallow Florida waters.

Bottom Line

Because they are predators, these sharks are very important to the ecology of Florida’s coasts. They eat a variety of things, including fish, seals, and even other sharks. While they can be dangerous if you’re swimming near them, they’re generally harmless to humans.

Nicole Mickle

I've lived, worked, and played in Orlando my entire life. Let's make the most out of your Florida lifestyle! I'm here to help you take overwhelming interior design options and simplify them room by room.

2 thoughts on “Top 15 Shark Species in Florida

  1. I live in Daytona Beach. Ive seen a lot of juvenile Black Tips and small sand sharks in the waters on our beaches. So far this year there were only 6 attacks here by juvenile sharks. They usually occur when a tourist is deciding to show off and interact with them in the shallow waters. So far I have been as close as five feet away from them with no incident.

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