Sharks vs Whales – How to differentiate them?

Big boss! Represent the owner or the head of the region, in the same manner, sharks and whales are awarded with this title and are considered as the big bosses of the oceans. They are also called the ocean beasts because of their giant size and exceptional predatory skills. This article tends to explain the resemblances as well as dissimilarity among both ocean species, so let’s analyze some interesting facts about these monsters.

Sharks and whales

Sharks and whales are the large creatures of marine ecosystem; a shark belongs to the group of cartilaginous fishes while whales are the mammals which thrive in ocean water. However, both species have learned to cope with different physical environments, they were able to live in cold and warm waters, freshwater or saltwaters. As sharks for fins and meat while whales for blubber layer are highly demanded due to which most of their members are on endangered list and are about to extinct.

Resemblances between sharks and whales

Sharks and whales both fall in the category of vertebrates which means both the species are with backbones. Another similarity between them is that both belong to aquatic environments and enjoy swimming deep in the ocean. Whales always prefer to live only in the ocean water while sharks with few exceptions live both in freshwater and saltwater. One of the remarkable features is a fusiform ​shape of the body that is the most evident resemblances between sharks and whales. This shape of their body helps to move through the tides of water in the most proficient way.

Dissimilarities between sharks and whales

There are a number of differences between them which are much deeper than oceans. Here are some of the common differences listed to make it easy for you to differentiate between them.

GroupSharks belongs to the group of cartilaginous fishesWhales belongs to the group of marine mammals
Species distributionThere are about 440 species of sharks that are distributed all over the worldThere are around 90 species of whales are distributed
HabitatSharks prefer warm water in tropical regionsWhales prefers cold water of Southern and Northern hemisphere
SizeSharks size reaches up to 40 feetThe size of whales grows up to 98 feet
WeightThe weight of sharks lies between 680 to 2268kg on averageThe weight of whales on average  is more than 150 tons
SkeletonThe entire skeleton of sharks is made up of cartilageLike mammals, whales skeleton in composed of bones
Body colorSharks are usually gray in color, with white skin of belly and pale yellow spots on the backWhales are gray, blue and of black color
Thermoregulation mechanismSharks are cold blooded so they do not regulate their body temperatureWhales are warm blooded species  which regulates their body temperature
SkinThe skin do not contain any hairy layerThe skin is covered with minute layer of hair
Blubber layerThe skin of sharks do not have the insulating blubber layer below their skinWhales possess a layer of blubber underneath their skin which prevent the fall of body temperature
Breathing mechanismSharks bears 5 pairs of gills which helps them to respireWhales possess well developed lung used in respiration
TeethSharks have 300 to 350 teeth which helps them to capture the preyWhales have 240 to 250 teeth which helps to capture and seize prey
DietSharks do not feed on specific species, they capture anything which comes in their surroundingsWhales feed on algae, planktons, larvae and other minute creatures
ReproductionSharks are ovoviviparous, they either lay eggs or give birth to young onesWhales are viviparous, which only give birth to young ones
EggsSharks produces about 300 eggs annuallyWhales only give birth to young pups and release them in ocean waters
Sleep mechanismSharks do sleep for sometimeWhales do not sleep but do some rest
OrgansSharks have well developed sense of smell, vision and are electroreception abilityWhales have very well developed ears so that they can hear the sound produced by predators from distance
Communication skillsSharks do not share any communication strategies with other sharks speciesWhales produces different sounds so as to interconnect with other whales
BehaviorSharks do not show any friendly behavior towards other species and are not trained for entertainmentWhales in contrast share friendly relationship with other species and are also trained for the purpose of entertainment
MigrationSharks do not migrate to other places as the season changesWhales migrates from one place to other seasonally
Life spanSharks can live for 20 to 30 yearsWhales can live for about 70 to 100 years 

Final words

Although sharks and whales share some sort of resemblance in their mode of living, they differ in many ways as well, sharks belong to the group of cartilaginous fishes while whales fall in the category of live marine mammals. Their behavior, mode of nutrition, appearance, distribution, sleep mechanism, color, reproduction and many other features analyzed above to help you to distinguish between the two giant water species. Now, whenever you see any of them you would be able to differentiate them easily.

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.