Can Sharks Swim Backward

When looking at sharks swimming, it is common to wonder whether they can move in the opposite direction or not. Considering that sharks are the apex predators in the marine food chain, you may think that sharks are able to stop swimming abruptly and swim backward when necessary.

However, the reality is different. In this article, we’ll be looking at how sharks swim and if they can swim backward or not.

Sharks have a series of scales on their body which ensures that they save energy while swimming in water. Moreover, these scales promote easy movement for sharks. Most of the body adaptations of sharks help them in moving forwards quickly and efficiently in order to catch their prey. This has played a significant part in moving sharks to the upper level of the marine food chain.

Now you might be wondering, what if sharks have to move backward? Let’s get to the details.

How Do Sharks Swim?

Different kinds of sharks have different ways with which they swim, and it mainly depends upon their species and body build. However, for the millions of years that sharks have existed, they have been subject to immaculate evolution. Their body is now fully adapted to swim efficiently in the water without any difficulties. The streamlined body of the shark is perfect for roaming around in the waters.

There are, however, different ways in which sharks swim. They may be categorized as flappers, cruisers, floaters, undulators, and wrigglers. In general, sharks use their tails to help move their body forward. This helps us understand the fact that the tail of sharks is extremely important because they help in the mechanism of swimming. In even the other water creatures, tails play an important role in helping move them in the water.

Moreover, some sharks also balance their bodies with their fins. This helps them in moving sideways, but not backward. Some sharks have adapted to move sideways in such a way, but they still cannot swim backward. All of the designs that different kinds of sharks have evolved in their bodies aid them in moving forward and sideways, but not backward, which brings us back to the main topic of this article. Find out here in more detail about shark swimming behavior.

Can Sharks Swim Backward?

In short, no, sharks cannot swim backward. This is because the pectoral fins of sharks are not designed in such a way that they support backward motion. The pectoral fins of sharks cannot bend upwards, which does allow motion, but it is only forwards. Sharks swim just like airplanes move forward because their pectoral fins do not allow backward movement.

Just like air with airplanes, the water moves from the front of the shark to the back. A shark, however, can fall backward. But, that doesn’t count as swimming since the shark is not moving its fins. If a shark were to swim backward, water would flow through its gills into its body. This would interfere with the breathing process of the shark, which can ultimately cause death.

As brutal and cruel as it sounds, some fishermen have applied this concept to catch sharks. They somehow move the shark backward, which causes water to go in through their gills, and ultimately they die. In addition, the mode of swimming does not allow sharks to move backward. The Great White Shark swims by flapping its tails. Other species move by wiggling their bodies, and both of these modes would not allow backward movement because of the way their bodies are built.

Sharks may even have a number of benefits because of not being able to move backward. When sharks are always swimming forwards, they ensure that their breathing process is properly functioning. This makes sure that water flows in through the open mouth of sharks and then moves out through their gills, where most of the gaseous exchange occurs. As mentioned before, when this process is interrupted, it can lead to the death of the shark.

Are there any species of shark that can swim backward?

In principle, sharks are unable to swim backward. However, there is one that can “move” backward. Epaulet sharks, also called the “walking sharks,” are known for their capability to walk on reefs and sea floors as well as on land. Therefore, the walking shark can also easily move backward by walking.

But, this wouldn’t count as swimming, and we would still reach the conclusion that there are no species of sharks that can move backward. Similarly, most sharks cannot stop swimming abruptly. There are a few species of sharks that can, but most cannot. When they stop swimming abruptly, the water can still easily go in through their gills which can cause suffocation and death.

Now that we understand that it’s lethal for sharks to swim backward, we can do a better job at avoiding putting them in such situations. Sharks should be left in their natural environment where they can swim forward easily and go on about their lives.


It’s a classic question for children around the world. Can sharks swim backward? Different sharks have different abilities to move in the water. However, not any species is said to be able to swim in the backward direction. These giant creatures are often associated with danger, but did you know that they are a vital part of the food chain and ecosystem and how they are important to us?

About the author


I am a Scholar and a dedicated content writer. I am on a mission to stamp out the importance of one of the ocean's most fascinating and remarkable creatures, the sharks, and to let people know about their role in keeping the ecosystem in equilibrium.