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Sharks are the prehistoric predators of the sea, thriving in our oceans for millions of years. They come in many different shapes and sizes, some reaching sizes as long as a bus and others small enough to fit in your pocket!

All sharks have four traits in common which define them as a species.

Fixed Fins – Unlike other fish, sharks can’t move their fins, and instead use them to cut through the water helping them to swim and turn faster while in pursuit of their prey.

Bendy Bones – Sharks don’t have a skeleton made of bones, but instead are made of cartilage (the same stuff that’s in our ears and noses). Cartilage is strong but flexible, making sharks agile swimmers!

Glorious Gills – Most other fish have just one gill slit protected by a gill cover. Sharks have no cover and have five, six or seven gill slits. The more gill slits a shark has, the deeper in the ocean it likes to live.

Sharp Skin – Shark skin is not scaled but made of thousands of tiny teeth. These teeth are called denticals and decrease drag and turbulence while a shark swims, making them stealthy hunters!
There are over 500 different species of sharks living in our oceans; in the UK we are lucky to have 40 of some of the most unique sharks. Mako Sharks are the fastest swimmers and can be found in the South of England, Greenland Sharks are the longest living and can be found in Northern Scotland. Here in Bristol, if we are very lucky, we can see the world’s second largest shark called the Basking Shark swimming in the Seven Estuary.

Sharks at Bristol Aquarium

More sharks!

Bristol Aquarium is are home to lots of different species of shark; from tropical to native. How many can you spot on your next visit?

All of the sharks at our aquarium are chosen with their future very much in mind. Whilst baby sharks can be born really small, many species grow rapidly as they mature, so we carefully consider the adult size of all of our sharks (and our fish) to ensure that none of them will grow too large for their displays and have to be re-homed.

This is why we don’t have any big sharks at our aquarium. The largest sharks you can see here are around 1 metre in length when fully grown. We strongly believe that it is our responsibility to provide long-term, sustainable homes for all of our fish, both for now and in the future.

Visit the Shark Trust to learn more about shark conservation and welfare.

Did you know?


Sharks and rays are actually very similar because they are both part of the same family!

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