How to Tell If a Shark is Male or Female?

how to tell if a shark is male or female

One of the most fascinating creatures of the water is Sharks; they are marine vertebrates and fall under the class of Chondrichthyes. They have two distinctive genders male and female. The male and female species of any living organism exhibit different anatomy. However, it is easiest to distinguish the male sharks from the female sharks as compared to other marine species. 

Ever wonder about the sex of the shark? You can easily tell the sex of the sharks from the external anatomy of the shark. Read this guide to learn how male sharks are different from the female sharks.

How to Tell If a Shark is Male or Female?

The male and female of some sharks have different body shapes and sizes. However, the best way to tell if a shark is male or female is through the presence of sexual organs. The following are the characteristics that must be considered while differentiating the male shark from the female shark:

  • Claspers and Cloacas
  • Body Shape
  • Body Size
  • Skin Coloration
  • Skin Composition
  • Diet
  • Behavior of Male and Female Sharks
  • Migratory Pattern

1: Claspers and Cloacas

The first and easiest way to determine if a shark is male or female is by the presence and absence of Claspers. The Male shark has a pair of Claspers while the female doesn’t. The Claspers are an intromittent organ that males use for mating. The Claspers are in the inner margin of the Pelvic fin and look like another pair of fins under the bodies of the male shark. 

The female does not have Claspers, if you see the underside of the female shark body you will see only Cloaca. The male also has Cloacas; the Cloaca is not only essential for breeding but is also used by sharks for the elimination of waste.

Did you know that sharks possess internal fertilization? The male sharks use Claspers for reproduction. The Claspers have grooves that are used to transfer the sperm from the male Claspers to the female Cloaca. The embryo is created inside the body of the female shark.

2: Body Shape

Mostly sharks are rounded and tapered from both ends. This body structure of sharks allows them to swim without utilizing a lot of energy. The female shark has more fatty bodies compared to the male shark.

The thick skin of female sharks protects them against injuries while mating.

3: Body Size

The largest known shark species is the Whale Shark. In most species of sharks, the male sharks are smaller in size compared to the female; the female grows 25% larger than the male Sharks. The average size of a female shark is 15 to 16 feet, while the average size of a male Shark is 11 to 13 feet.

However, there are some male shark species including male blacktip saw tail catsharks, which are slightly larger in size compared to the female sharks.

4: Skin Coloration

The sharks are brown, gray, or olive in color. The male has light-colored bodies with black lines. On the other side, the female sharks have dark and heavier bodies.

5: Skin Composition

The body of the shark is made up of mineralized dermal denticles (the tooth-like structures on the surface of the shark skin) which are embedded in the collagen fiber network. The female has more denticle density compared to the male sharks. The female also has more scarring on the body.

6: Diet

Both male and female sharks feed on diverse prey. The Female sharks focus on large prey including sea lions, seals, and marine mammals while the male sharks feed on smaller marine animals such as fish or crustaceans.

7: Behavior of Male and Female Sharks

The Sharks may exhibit different migratory behaviors depending on their gender. The male sharks exhibit more territorial and aggressive behavior during mating season. For mating, the male shark’s approach female sharks and compete with other male sharks to mate. On the other side, the female sharks are passive, and they are approached by multiple male sharks for mating.

8: Migratory Pattern

The migratory pattern also varies between male and female sharks. Male sharks like to stay in deep waters all year, while female sharks tend to migrate to protect the eggs and guard their offspring.

Some sharks like Tiger Shark, migrate over long distances for food or to give birth in specific areas. The male sharks have smaller home ranges, or they might not travel at all.

Bottom Line

The easiest way to differentiate the male shark from the female shark is from the presence of claspers under their bodies. The male sharks have Claspers that is present on the underside of their bodies, and they use these Claspers in reproduction. The Female sharks have a Cloaca, for both digestive and reproductive functions. 

The other differences are: The female sharks are larger in size with fatty bodies and have dark bodies while the male sharks are small with dull-colored bodies. The female sharks migrate over long distances to give birth or in search of food. While male sharks prefer to live in the deepest offshore all year. 

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