Sharks – Classification

Taxonomy refers to the official classifications of plants or animals according to accepted scientific standards and norms. As a group, sharks belong to the superorder called Selachimorpha. They are in the Chondrichthyes class (along with Chimaeras) under the subclass Elasmobranchii. This subclass is also where rays and skates fall and some sharks are thought to be very closely related to certain ray species (even more so than to other sharks, in fact).

Selachimorpha is split into Galea and Squalea. The Galea group comprises:

1.Heterodontiformes e.g. Bullhead or Horn Sharks ( although some scientists believe these to belong to the Squalea group)
2.Orectolobiformes e.g. Zebra, Nurse, Wobbegongs and Whale sharks
3.Lamniformes e.g. Basking, Megamouth, Goblin, Thresher, Mako (Longfin and Shortfin) and the Great White sharks
4.Carcharhiniformes e.g. Blue, Tiger, Bull, Caribbean, Whitetip Reef, Oceanic Whitetip, Grey Reef, and Blacktip Reef sharks
Orectolobiformes and Carcharhinoids form a clade;that is, they are believed to come from one common ancestor. This is a fairly recent discovery and has proven most exciting amongst researchers.

The Squalea group is divided into Hexanchoidei and Squalomorpha. Hexanchoidei comprise:

5.Hexanchiformes e.g. Cow Shark
6.Chlamydoselachiformes e.g. the Frilled Shark

The Squalomorpha consist of:

7.Squaliformes e.g. Bramble, Dogfish, Roughsharks and Prickly sharks (part of Hypnosqualea)
8.Squatiniformes Angel Sharks (part of Hypnosqualea)
9.Pristiophoriformes Sawsharks (part of Pristorajea)
10.Batoidea e.g. stingrays, skates and electric rays (part of Pristorajea)

Image of Tiger shark
A large Tiger Shark on white sand.

There are a total of eight official orders (when considering Hypnosqualea and Pristorajea as two groups) in which all known shark species are adequately represented. Their known evolutionary order follows:


For more information and a diagram on shark classification please view: