Shark Species

What is the Most Common Shark in Florida?

what is the most common shark in florida

Florida is located in the southeastern region of the United States and is a haven for sports enthusiasts and marine lovers. Every year millions of tourists visit Florida’s beaches and its nearby places. In over 400 million years, sharks and their ancestors have lived in Florida. It is the home to almost 40 Shark species. 

Sharks are the top predators of the marine system and help to maintain the balance in each ecosystem they inhabit. South Florida is home to more sharks than other areas in the world. A wide variety of sharks are present there from Nurse Shark to Tiger Shark.

In this guide, we will discuss the following outline in detail:

Are There Sharks in Florida?

Yes, Florida is the best place to dive with sharks; it has one of the most diverse populations of sharks that range in size and feed on different aquatic species. Most sharks are common in the offshore and nearby bays of Florida. More than 13 species of sharks use these places as nursery grounds. 

The migrating shark species are found in the inshore and offshore waters along with the latitudinal gradients, the north, and south of Florida. The sharks migrate to the inshore and north during summer and spring, and offshore and south in fall and winter.

What Beach in Florida Has More Sharks?

In Florida, the new Smyrna Beach in Volusia country has more sharks. It is the deadliest beach in the US also known as the “Shark bite capital of the world”. The other beaches where sharks have been spotted are:

  • Navarre Beach
  • Treasure Coast
  • Augustine Beach
  • Ponte Vedra Beach

What is the Most Common Shark in Florida?

The most common shark in Florida is the Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum). The Nurse sharks are nocturnal (mostly active at night) and docile sharks that appear sluggish and is found in the warm water of Florida. They are bottom-dwelling species, but you can spot one of these species snoozing on the seafloor. If you spot one in Florida while swimming, enjoy the view before they swim away. 

The Nurse sharks have flattened bodies with broad rounded heads. They are a light yellow to dark brown color. These non-predatory species are 9 feet long and weigh about 200 to 250 lbs. They have small, serrated teeth that can crush the hard shells with ease. The Nurse sharks feed on small fish and crustaceans and are not generally considered a threat to humans.

What Other Sharks Live in the Water of Florida? 

The other sharks found in the water of Florida are listed below:

  • Bull Shark
  • Great Hammerhead Shark
  • Lemon Shark
  • Sandbar Shark
  • Caribbean Reef Shark
  • Blacktip Shark
  • Silky Shark
  • Dusky Shark
  • Great White Shark
  • Blacknose Shark
  • Spinner Shark
  • Bonnethead Shark
  • Tiger Shark
  • Whale Shark

1: Bull Shark- Carcharhinus leucas

The Bull sharks are one of the most powerful and aggressive shark species found in the warm water of Florida’s coast. They live in offshore, inshore waters along with the freshwater. They are the only sharks that can survive in freshwater habitats because their bodies are less salty compared to the other sharks. These species measure 7 to 11 feet and have an average weight of 200 to 500 pounds. Florida is the best place to see the Bull Shark and the best time of the year to see these sharks is between January and June.

These species are famous for their powerful jaws and teeth that allow them to feed on reptiles, birds, and other small sharks. The Bull sharks are responsible for the highest number of Shark attacks on humans in Florida. You can avoid shark encounters by avoiding swimming at dawn and dusk and in places where there are high chances of the presence of these sharks.

2: Great Hammerhead Shark- Sphyrna mokarran

The wide variety of Hammerhead Sharks rooms in Florida. They are requiem sharks that belong to the family of Sphyrnidae. The Great Hammerhead is the largest species of this group and can be found on the warm water coasts of Florida, mostly in South Florida. You can see them cruising in the waters of Florida during January and May. The distinctive feature of these species is their hammer-shaped head which measures up to a third of their bodies. The Great Hammerhead Sharks use their hammer-like head (T-shaped) to attack their prey. 

The Great Hammerhead is one of the largest shark species that can reach a length of 20 feet. They have an average weight of 500 pounds. They have brownish colored flat and broad bodies with powerful jaws. These species feed on stingrays, octopuses, fish, and other shark species.

3: Lemon Shark- Negaprion brevirostris

The Lemon Shark is part of the requiem shark family. They are the most abundant and largest sharks in Florida and live in the warm waters. They migrate to the waters of Florida for mating and you can see them in Florida all year round. They mostly dwell in inshore and shallow water. This shark species is named for its yellow-colored body. The average measure of a Lemon Shark is around 10 feet with 400 pounds weight. 

The Lemon Sharks are docile, but they are capable of large bursts and aggression. They have sharp and powerful teeth that they use to hunt their prey including cephalopods, fish, and crustaceans. These species are threatened by overfishing and habitat destruction.

4: Sandbar Shark- Carcharhinus plumbeus

The other most commonly seen shark in the waters of Florida is the Sandbar Shark. They are mostly found in the inshore water but also dwell in the offshore deeper waters. The Sandbar Sharks got their name from its presence on sandy and muddy flat bays. The Sandbar Sharks are found in Florida between May and August. They can grow up to 8 feet and weigh 200 pounds.

They are known for their tall Dorsal fin, long Pectoral fin, and pale-colored bodies. They have powerful bodies with sharp teeth. The Sandbar Shark feeds on small bony fish (menhaden, croaker, and snapper), squid, shrimp, and crustaceans.

5: Caribbean Reef Shark-Carcharhinus perezii

The Caribbean Reef Sharks are often found in Florida. They are tolerant predators that stay away from humans. They live in both shallow and deep water and are mostly found in all the tropical oceans including South Florida. They are a common sight in Florida water during summer months.

The average size of a Caribbean Reef Shark is 6 to 10 feet with a weight of 154 lbs. They have gray skin and white underside. They feed on large bony fish, squids, and crustaceans. These species were recently listed as endangered because of the destruction of coral reefs; the coral reefs are the feeding grounds for these species.

6: Blacktip Shark- Carcharhinus limbatus

The Blacktip Shark is a commonly and easily recognizable species found in the Inshore water of Florida between July and August. It has a gray and brown body with a black tip on the tail and other fins except the anal fin. They are one of the most common energetic sharks found in the crystal water of Florida. The Blacktip Sharks live in salt and brackish water (a mixture of fresh and saltwater; the place where the river meets the ocean).

They typically grow 5 to 6 feet and weigh about 60 to 80 pounds. They feed on fish and other small sharks and humans are not on their menu, so they are not considered a threat to humans.

7: Silky Shark- Carcharhinus falciformis

The Silky Sharks are known for their smooth silky skin. They are expert hunters and are constantly hunting for food. They are one of the main and fearless sharks of Florida. They are often seen in Florida from June to August. They live in open water and travel a long distance in the open ocean currents.

The Silky Shark can grow up to 8 to 10 feet and weighs about 500 pounds. The Silky Sharks are opportunistic feeders and prey on squids, crustaceans, and other small fish. Despite their abundant presence in Florida, they are threatened by overfishing and other fishing operations.

8: Dusky Shark- Carcharhinus obscurus

The Dusky Sharks are large requiem sharks that can grow up to 400 pounds. They live in both deep offshore and shallow inshore waters. They are migratory fishes, covering large distances from the equator to the poles. They have been known to consume little garbage. In Florida, they hunt in inshore reefs and deep Gulf streams; you can see them in Florida from late June to early September.

The Dusky Sharks have no interest in humans and feed on only other small fishes and sharks. It is considered an endangered shark species due to human interference in their habitats and overfishing.

9: Great White Shark- Carcharodon carcharias

In the summer of 2020, the Great White Shark was spotted in the offshore water of Florida. They mostly prefer cold water but occasionally they appear in warm water. They are the largest shark species with powerful jaws and are the most feared predators. They are also responsible for the highest number of shark attacks on people. They do not eat humans, but they confuse humans with seals (a favorite food of the Great White Shark) because of their terrible eyesight.

They have gray bodies with white underbellies. They measure about 11 to 16 feet with 1700 lbs. weight. The biggest White Shark can reach up to 20 feet. They feed seals and other sharks.

10: Blacknose Shark- Carcharhinus acronotus

The Blacknose Sharks are small sharks found in the warm water of the Atlantic coast of Florida from late June to early July. They are known as Blacknose Shark because they have black on their snouts which extends to the lips. They can grow 5 feet in length and weigh 40 pounds. They eat smaller fishes and octopuses and have no interest in humans. They are game fish and are hard to catch. While commercially valuable they pose little threat to humans.

11: Spinner Shark- Carcharhinus brevipinna

The Spinner Shark can be found in the warm waters of Florida. They are named for their impressive jumping patterns. These species use these patterns to confuse and catch their prey. The best time to see these fascinating creatures in Florida is from December to April.

They have long pointed snouts, sharp and powerful teeth, and sleek bodies. The Spinner Shark’s average length is 6.6 feet, weighing 123 pounds. They have brown bodies or sometimes gray with white bands on the upper side of their bodies. They feed on other small fishes, sharks, and rays.

12: Bonnethead Shark- Sphyrna tiburo

The Bonnethead Shark is a type of Hammerhead shark, with a similar head shape. They are the smaller fishes of sharks that live in the shallow water. You can see them close to the shore of Florida all year. They can grow up to 3 or 4 feet and move in a zig-zag pattern in the water to search for food. They mostly feed crabs, shrimp, and other small invertebrates. These species also eat seagrass and are the only known shark species that eat both plants and animals.

13: Tiger Shark- Galeocerdo cuvier

The Tiger Sharks are the largest found sharks in Florida with a length of 18 feet and a weight of 3000 lbs. They have heavy bodies with distinctive stripes like tigers all over their bodies. These species live in shallow reefs and oceanic offshore waters. Although they are rarely found in Florida, you can see them in the duration between December and July.  

They are the second largest predatory fish and are capable of high burst speed. They have an average size of 14 feet and a weight of 1400 lbs. The Tiger Sharks use their speed to hunt their prey. They feed on fish, squids, turtles, dolphins, birds, and whales. These species are known as the top predators and keep the population in check and balance the ecosystem.

14: Whale Shark- Rhincodon typus

The Whale Sharks are the largest living species of shark and can be found on the offshore water coasts of Florida. They can grow up to 65 feet and weigh around 10 tons. Despite the size of the Whale Shark, they feed on zooplankton. You can identify them with the white spots and unique stripes on their back. They are often seen swimming near the surface of Florida during the annual migrations.

Florida is the most likely place for the most unprovoked shark attacks; the statistics of shark attacks on humans are rare. The average number of sharks attacking humans is 30 out of millions of people per year. The sharks’ attack in shallow water is high on humans as there are a high number of chances of the appearance of sharks. If you ever find yourself with sharks in the water then stay calm, do not panic, and avoid sudden moments; maintain eye contact with the shark and slowly start moving back.

Bottom Line

The water of Florida is home to various aquatic animals including sharks. The shark population of Florida is diverse ranging from one foot to 40 feet in size. The most common Shark found in Florida is Nurse Shark. The other sharks that live in Florida are Bull sharks, Great Hammerhead sharks, Lemon sharks, Sandbar sharks, Caribbean Reef sharks, Blacktip sharks, and many more. The other sharks that are seen in Florida during annual migrations are Great White sharks, Tiger sharks, Spinners sharks, and Dusky sharks.

The sharks are important for the ecology of Florida. They feed on seals, and other small fishes and sharks. The distribution of sharks can vary depending on the location and time of the year. Although sharks are harmless to humans, it is dangerous to swim near them.

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