How Long Can Sharks Live Out Of Water?

Imagine a huge shark after being tired of swimming coming out of the water to take some rest on land! Sounds terrifying!

Have you seen the famous movie “Jaws”, remember a scene where a giant shark comes out of the water for a few minutes to attack on a boat! This scene would definitely make you curious to think that is it possible in reality or not? We have always seen sharks swimming and roaming in the water waves throughout the extended ocean but some species of sharks such as Epaulette sharks are able to adjust their living conditions so that they can live out of the water for some period of time without any consequences.

Dive with us in detail to know how some sharks manage to live out of water and for water time periods! Shall we proceed! Let’s begin!

Can a shark live out of water?

Yes but for a short period of time! Like humans, sharks also need oxygen to respire! We all know that all sharks are fishes and they get oxygen from the water in which they thrive rather than from atmospheric air. Instead of lungs sharks have gills which help in breathing by removing oxygen from the water. So sharks always need a constant flow of water over their gills.

Except for a few species, all sharks live underwater and may die because they cannot breathe out of water. Depending upon the size and type of sharks, some species will manage to live out of the water but for a short period of time. These sharks are called pelagic sharks – by the process of ram ventilation some species are able to extract and store oxygen in the body and use it when they move out of water.

For how long can a shark live out of water?

Few minutes to a maximum of 11 hours!

Many species of sharks manage to adapt to the environmental changes and are capable of surviving out of the water but only for a few minutes. Species such as Bull shark, Thresher shark, Hammerhead shark and whale sharks can live in the external atmosphere for several minutes whereas some species such as Tiger sharks, Epaulette shark and The Great white are capable of breathing out of the water for 11 hours before they die!

Moreover, other factors such as oxygen content, temperature and the body size will also affect the living habitats of sharks. The small and young sharks can live in the external environment for longer period of time than the large and giant shark’s species. Above all, sharks can’t live outside their natural habitat for loner time period without suffering death! A fact!

What happens when a shark is taken out of the water?

As we now know, it will take sharks a few minutes or maybe an hour before they suffocate to death when taken out of the water, but it’s important that we understand what happens to sharks during all this time. It might make us able to help them in some way! So, let’s discuss this aspect as well.
Sharks’ bodies and structures are made to support the aquatic environment; for instance, the shark’s skeleton lacks rib cages to keep its shape and protect its organs, unlike mammals. Moreover, they have gills that are vital for breathing and not the lungs.
In the absence of submersion, sharks will be crushed by gravity on land and will suffer internal bleeding. Even the largest predatory shark, the great white shark, will suffer the same way.
The shark will also likely struggle and flap to get back into the water. This will not only exhaust the shark’s oxygen but will probably also hurt it further.
When sharks are out of the water, their gills may also be damaged, and they may become stuck together, making them unusable when they return to the water.
All in all, the shark will be severely affected when out of the water as all of its organs will suffer in one way or another. In a matter of minutes, an oxygen-deprived shark can suffer irreversible damage even if it appears to be alive.

Can sharks live without oxygen?

It is impossible for any living organism to live without oxygen. The lack of oxygen causes a conduction called hypoxia which causes damage to the brain in just a few minutes. If oxygen is taken away from the sharks then they suffer from brain haemorrhage which ultimately lead to the death of magnificent creatures.

Why can’t sharks breathe atmospheric air?

Sharks do not have lungs, so they cannot breathe air! Instead gills help them in breathing but only underwater. Sharks bear many gills on both sides of their head, the gills extract oxygen from water current and pass it to the tiny blood vessels, which takes the oxygen to the bloodstream of the sharks and carries it to the body tissues and organs where it is required. 

Final words

Sharks are born to swim swiftly and with high speed in the ocean water. All sharks prefer to live underwater in their natural habitat. The gills are the magnificent features of the sharks which function as lungs and extract oxygen from water and help sharks in breathing. Even when they are resting at the floor of the ocean or in sleeping condition the breathing process continues.

However, there are some species of Epaulettesharks that came into limelight by exhibiting their capability of living out of the water. They survive outside the water for a short period of time ranging from a few minutes to almost 11 hours depending on the type of sharks. if they live out of the water for a longer timespan then they would suffer death! The loss of a splendid creature!

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.