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35 Shark Species Swimming in California

35 Shark Species Swimming in California

I love sharks! And I often find myself wondering what species are in the waters around me, and far from me! If you, like me, wonder what shark species swim around in the waters of California, this article is for you! 

1. Common Thresher Shark

thresher shark
Common thresher sharks are pelagic and live in the deep ocean. However, Malapascua offers a unique chance to see these incredible sharks at close range while they are cleaned. Monad Shoal, Philippines, November. Image via depositphotos.com

Common Thresher Sharks, Alopias vulpinus, are the largest of the thresher shark species growing to 20 feet. These predators use their long tails to whip and stun their prey before feeding on them. They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List due to overfishing. 

2. Bigeye Thresher Shark

bigeye thresher shark
Image by ftlaudgirl via depositphotos.com

Bigeye Thresher Sharks, Alopias superciliosus, like other threshers, have long upper tail lobes. However, their large eyes are distinctive to this species and can rotate upward. Helping them hunt when little light is available. These sharks are also listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. 

3. Leopard Shark

Leopard Shark
Leopard Shark. Image by David Clode via unsplash.com

Leopard sharks, Triakis semifasciata, have slender bodies covered with black spots and stripes on their backs. These sharks are harmless to humans and can often be seen near reefs and kelp forests. They are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. 

4. Gray Smoothhound Shark

gray smoothound
Image by Coughdrop12, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gray Smoothound sharks, Mustelus californicus, received their name due to their smooth skin. These slender-bodied sharks grow to about 4.3 feet and are listed as Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List. 

5. Brown Smoothhound Shark

brown smoothhound
Image by D Ross Robertson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Brown Smoothhound sharks, Mustelus henlei, is another hound shark species that received their name due to their smooth and brown skin. Growing up to about 3.3 feet, these sharks are also listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. 

6. Sicklefin Smoothhound Shark

Sicklefin Smoothhound Shark
Image by D Ross Robertson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sicklefin Smoothhound sharks, Mustelus lunulatus, are much larger than the other hound sharks mentioned so far, growing to 5.7 feet. Their dorsal fins are sickle-shaped, hence the name, and they are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. 

7. Tiger Shark

tiger shark
Tiger shark swimming in the ocean. Image by Divepics via depositphotos.com

Tiger sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier, are large predators growing to over 16 feet in length. These sharks are renowned for their eating habits, which even include garbage found in the ocean. Due to overfishing, this shark striped shark is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, 

8. Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Oceanic white-tip shark
Oceanic whitetip shark. Image via depositphotos.com

Oceanic Whitetip Sharks, Carcharhinus longimanus, are known for their rounded white-tipped fins. These sharks are slow-moving, yet very aggressive. Due to overfishing for their fins, they are listed as Critically Endangered. 

9. Blue Shark

blue shark
Image by PantherMediaSeller via depositphotos.com

Blue sharks, Prionace glauca, are migratory sharks and even though they tend to be lethargic they can move at impressive speeds. These sharks grow to around 10 feet and due to overfishing these sharks are listed as Near Threatened. 

10. Pacific Sharpnose Shark

pacific sharpnose
Image by D Ross Robertson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pacific Sharpnose Shark, Rhizoprionodon longurio, is born at only 12 inches and grows to 3.6 feet in length. These migratory sharks are often caught in fishing nets leading to their Vulnerable status on the IUCN Red List. 

11. Dusky Shark

Dusky Shark
Dusky shark. Image by David Clode via unsplash.com

Dusky sharks, Carcharhinus obscurus, a migratory species that received their name due to their dusky complexion. These sharks are listed as Endangered, which is worrisome as they are extremely slow to mature and reproduce. 

12. Bull Shark

bull shark
Bull Shark. Image by Andaman via depositphotos.com

Bull sharks, Carcharhinus leucas, can survive in both salt and freshwater! These amazing sharks are listed as Vulnerable, due to the over-culling of these sharks in heavily populated areas.

13. Copper Shark

copper shark
Image by Robert Nyman, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Copper sharks, Carcharhinus brachyurus, also known as bronze whalers, are characterized by their bronze skin complexion and hook-shaped, narrow upper teeth. These sharks are listed as Vulnerable due to a combination of overfishing and their slow growth rate. 

14. Basking Shark

Basking Shark
Basking Shark. Image by Greg Skomal / NOAA Fisheries Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Basking sharks, Cetorhinus maximus, are the second largest shark species averaging 26 feet. These sharks swim with their large mouths open to catch the plankton they feed on. Due to the over-exploitation of these sharks, they are listed as Endangered.

15. Frilled Shark

frilled shark
Image by NOAA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Frilled sharks, Chlamydoselachus anguineus, are considered living fossils because of their eel-like shape, dark brown color, and length of 6.6 feet. Capturing their food with eel-like movements and their 300-teethed mouths, these sharks are considered as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. 

16. Sevengill Shark

sevengill shark
Image by D Ross Robertson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sevengill sharks, Notorynchus cepedianus, are known by their seven gills compared to other shark species’ five. These active sharks have large heads but small eyes and are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. 

17. Horn Shark

Horn shark (Heterodontus francisci) off Santa Catalina, California, USA.
Horn shark (Heterodontus francisci) off Santa Catalina, California, USA. By Ed Bierman from CA, usa – Horn Shark, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7059687

Horn sharks, Heterodontus francisci, are small sharks recognized by the horn-like ridges growing above their eyes. These sharks live mostly solitary lives and hunt during the evenings. 

18. Bluntnose Sixgill Shark

bluntnose sixgill shark
Image by NOAA Ocean Explorer from USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bluntnose Sixgill sharks, Hexanchus griseus, have six gills as their name suggests, and grow to impressive sizes of an average of 20 feet. Sometimes referred to as cow sharks due to their nose shapes, these sharks are listed as Near Threatened.

19. Great White Shark

Great white
Great white breaching. Image by Mlbay via Pixabay

Great white sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, are known for their violent nature and intimidating sizes. With the largest female ever recorded weighing in at 4410 pounds and 19.1 feet! These sharks only reach maturity at around 26 to 33 years and are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. 

20. Shortfin Mako Shark

mako shark
Image by ratherton via depositphotos.com

Shortfin mako sharks, Isurus oxyrinchus, go by many names including the blue pointer or bonito shark. These sharks grow to 13 feet and weigh a massive 1260 pounds! Due to both commercial and sport overfishing this shark is listed as Endangered

21. Salmon Shark

Salmon shark
Salmon shark (Lamna ditropis). Image by PIRO-NOAA Observer Program, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Salmon sharks, Lamna ditropis, received their name due to their love of feeding on salmon. These sharks can also control their body temperature, a rare occurrence in the world of fish and sharks! Salmon sharks are listed as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. 

22. Smalltooth Sand Tiger Shark

smalltooth sand tiger shark
Image by 出羽雀台, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Smalltooth Sand Tiger sharks, Odontaspis ferox, also goes by the name bumpytail ragged-tooth. These sharks are not commonly seen and grow to around 14 feet in length. They are listed as a Vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List. 

23. Whale Shark

Whale shark swimming. Image by Alex Steyn on unsplash.com

Whale Sharks, Rhincodon typus, are filter feeders with plankton as their main food source. These sharks are not only large – the largest one recorded at 61.7 feet – but can also live as long as 130 years! They are listed as Vulnerable due to the impact of fisheries. 

24. Brown Catshark

brown catshark
Image by NOAA Photo Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Brown Catsharks, Apristurus brunneus, can live on sandy or muddy bottoms as deep as 2,130 feet! They hardly grow larger than 2.2 feet and have soft bodies with weak skin that can easily obtain damage. 

25. Swell Shark

Swell shark
Swell shark in the oceanarium. Image by aspsvz via depositphotos.com

Swell shark, Cephaloscyllium ventriosum, is another member of the catshark family that can double their size as a form of defense by swallowing water. These sharks are listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. 

26. Filetail Catshark

Filetail catshark
Image by National Marine Sanctuaries, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Filetail Catsharks, Parmaturus xaniurus, like other catsharks are deep dwellers and they can be found on the ocean floor at depths ranging between 300 and 4,100 feet. They are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. 

27. Smooth Hammerhead Shark

smooth hammerhead
Image by Shaun Lee, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Smooth Hammerheads, Sphyrna zygaena, are the second largest of the hammerhead species measuring at 16 feet. These marine predators are listed as Vulnerable due to overfishing and the high demand for shark fin. 

28. Bonnethead Shark

bonnethead shark
Image by stephstarr9363@gmail.com via depositphotos.com

Bonnethead sharks, Sphyrna tiburo, are sometimes referred to as shovelhead sharks. They are one of the very few marine animals that eat an omnivorous diet, including high volumes of seagrass. Due to recreational and commercial fishing, these sharks are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. 

29. Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

Scalloped hammerhead
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark Sphyrna Lewini. Image by Kris Mikael Krister, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Scalloped Hammerhead sharks, Sphyrna lewini, received their name due to the indent pattern of their heads. These sharks need a lot of food, especially as juveniles, due to their high metabolisms. They are listed as Critically Endangered mainly due to overfishing.  

30. Spiny Dogfish Shark

the smallest shark species
A spiny dogfish patrolling the cold waters of Puget Sound. Image via depositphotos.com

Spiny Dogfish sharks, Squalus acanthias, are also known as mud sharks. These sharks live in shallow waters at some distance from the shore and secrete mild venom through spines near their dorsal fins. They are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.

31. Pacific Sleeper Shark

Pacific sleeper shark
Image by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pacific Sleeper sharks, Somniosus pacificus, are stealthy predators that suck in their prey and use their sharp teeth to cut them into swallowable sizes. These sharks are listed as a Near Threatened species by the IUCN Red List. 

32. Pygmy Shark

Pygmy shark
Image by SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pygmy sharks, Euprotomicrus bispinatus,  are the second smallest of all the shark species only growing to about 10 inches. These tiny sharks have luminous organs at the bottom of their dark-colored bodies, They are listed as Least Concern. 

33. Pacific Angelshark

Pacific angel shark
Image by Tony Chess/NOAA SWFSC, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pacific Angelshark, Squatina californica, have flat bodies with large fins giving them their angel-like appearance. Living on sandy floors in shallow waters, these ambush predators hide in the environment waiting for prey. They are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. 

34. Prickly Shark

prickly shark
Image by D Ross Robertson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Prickly sharks, Echinorhinus cookei, are dark-colored stocky sharks that grow to about 13 feet in length. They are covered in dermal denticles that look like thorns – the reason behind their name. 

35. Soupfin Shark

soupfin shark
A female school shark (Galeorhinus galeus) was photographed using a Baited Remote Underwater. Image by AshlieJMcivor, CC BY-SA 4.0. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Soupfin sharks, Galeorhinus galeus, are also known as school sharks grow up to 6.7 feet and live at depths up to 2,600 feet! These sharks are widely fished for their meat, fins, and liver leading to their Critically Endangered status on the IUCN Red List.  

Last Say on the Sharks Swimming in California

Great White shark ready to attack
Great White shark while coming to you on a deep blue ocean background. Image via Deposit Photos

As we can see, many different shark species are swimming in the waters around California! Some big, some small, and some more aggressive than others. However, we must remember that sharks tend to stay away from humans and attacks are less common than portrayed by the media! Let’s take care of all these amazing shark species by aiding in their conservation efforts.

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