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10 Shark Adaptations (Evolutionary Secrets!)

10 Shark Adaptations

Examples of shark adaptations are a large gill surface, good eyesight, and not having bones. All these adaptations happened to help the shark become one of the most terrifying hunters in the sea.

There are many types of sharks, but the focus of this list on the shark’s adaptation is the great white shark—one that has been used over and over again in movies to show how powerful a shark can be in the water.

Shark Adaptations

1. Torpedo Shape

Sand Tiger Shark

On biology, the basic shape ofa shark is fusiform. It is like a torpedo, and sharks evolved this way to make it easier for them to swim around. A torpedo shape is pointed at the front, and then it tapers at the back.

With this shape, the shark can move faster in the water with little drag or friction. It is like the aerodynamics equivalent of water. It is this shape that allows the shark to chase fast-swimming prey. 

2. Stiff Tailfins

Sharks have different tail fins—the shapes are different, but they are stiff and long. The fins are made of cartilage rods that support the rigidity of the fins so the shark can be more agile. 

The long and stiff tail fins of sharks are important for them to maneuver in the water. The tail fin, or caudal fin, is what makes the shark move forward. It is the fin that allows the shark to increase and decrease speed. More importantly, the shark can also use it for defense or for whipping prey. 

3. Large Gill Surface

Mako Shark

Sharks have a large gill surface, so they can process more water and absorb oxygen. Sharks cannot breathe like other animals, and they depends on the water flow or volume on the gills to get enough oxygen.

The Great White Shark has gill filaments that allow for gas exchange in the water. It is how this predator breathes. As water passes through the gills, the small capillaries will process the oxygen, and the oxygen will enter the bloodstream.

4. Large Heart

A shark has a heart that has two chambers. This heart is strong and muscular, and it is why it can sustain the shark’s need for blood during a hunt.

Contrary to popular belief, a shark does not have two hearts. Its heart functions like the heart of other animals. Its job is to pump blood to the veins so the muscles and the brain can get oxygen.

5. Superb Sense of Smell

Lemon Shark

A great white shark can detect a drop of blood in 100 liters of water even if the shark is three miles away. It is an adaptation that allows the shark to hunt food precisely in the vast ocean.

To be able to do this, the shark’s brain has also evolved. About two-thirds of the weight of the brain is dedicated to processing smell.

Because of this capability, the shark can easily spot a weak or injured fish in the sea. The acute sense of smell can zero in on that bleeding fish, and the shark uses this to navigate the oceanto get closer to that prey.

6. Regional Endothermy

Regional endothermy is an adaptation where the shark can raise its body temperature when it is cold. The shark can generate heat by contracting its muscles, and the shark will have a temperature that is higher than the water around its body.

Regional endothermy is important, so the shark stays warm even in cold water. If this adaptation did not happen, the shark would get confined to warm waters only, and it could die if the water gets cold.

7. Thunniform Swimming

great white shark

Thunniform swimming is an undulation that uses the caudal fin or the tail fin. Sharks adapted this swimming strategy as it makes them swim faster.

Thunniform swimming makes the shark a high-performance swimmer. A shark can swim as fast as 50 kilometers per hour. As the shark swings its tails from one side to the other, it pushes more water and makes swimming more efficient.

8. No Bones

Sharks have no bones as mammals do. Instead, sharks have cartilage that makes up their skeleton. Because of this, sharks are light and are more buoyant.

The absence of bones makes it possible for sharks to become fast swimmers even if they have no swim bladder. Instead, the shark has a liver full of oil, which also has a positive impact on how the shark floats. The cartilage also allows the shark to be more flexible and make quick maneuvers when chasing prey. 

9. Good Eyesight

Grey Reef Shark

Sharks have great eyesight, which allows them to see in deep waters even if the light is scarce. Like humans, sharks have rods that allow them to see the light and dark, and they also have cones that enable them to see colors.

Despite this, sharks do not have well-developed cones, so they can only see in black and white. Nevertheless, sharks have excellent visual acuity, and they can see in low-light conditions. Combined with a powerful sense of smell, the shark is a powerful predator that can spot prey and hunt it with precision.

10. Electro-Receptor Organs

Lastly, sharks are sensitive because of a receptor called ampullae of Lorenzini. It is found at the head of sharks, and this helps them detect small electrical signals coming from prey.

The electric receptor can receive electrical signals. It tells them that there is something alive nearby. A great white shark can detect electric charges that are as small as one-millionth of a volt in the water.


A shark is one of the most powerful animals in the sea. It may not be as smart as a dolphin or an orca, but it has the makings of a fearsome predator. Sharks are not likely to attack humans. A person’s chance of getting attacked by sharks is one in three million. However, people still kill millions of sharks every year. Sharks should not be killed, as they are important in the ecosystem of the sea.

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