Welcome to NewEnglandSharks.com
Let's learn about identifying some sharks you might encounter.
If you have of photos of sharks you want identified, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are sharks you could encounter in New England.
The ones with the * are protected species and should be released unharmed.
*Basking - Cetorhinus maximus--------------- Smooth dogfish - Mustelis canis
*White - Carcharodon carcharias -------------Thresher - Alopias vulpinus
*Dusky - Carcharhinus obscurus --------------Spiny dogfish - Squalus acanthias
*Sandtiger - Carcharias taurus ---------------Tiger - Galeocerdo cuvier
*Sandbar - Carcharhinus plumbeus ----------Blue - Prionace glauca
Mako - Isurus oxyrinchus --------------------- Porbeagle - Lamna nasus
Smooth hammerhead - Sphyrna zygaena
A dogfish will not have an anal fin
Let's start off with some easy identifications.
If the shark has a tail almost as long as the body, it is a Thresher - Alopias vulpinus.
If it has a hammerlike head, it is a more likely a Smooth Hammerhead - Sphyrna zygaena
If the shark has two dorsal fins with a spine in front of each dorsal, and it lacks an anal fin, it is a
Spiny dogfish - Squalus acanthias. Plenty of them here.
If the shark looks like a spiny dogfish, but doesn't have spines on the dorsals, and does have an
anal fin, it is a Smooth dogfish - Mustelis canis. Not many in our area.
If it has two dorsals nearly the same size, and no spines on them, and has noticeable teeth, it is a
*Sandtiger - Carcharias taurus. A page on his website is devoted to this protected species.
If the shark is blue colored with long pectoral fins and the dorsal fin is set well back from the
pectorals, it is a Blue - Prionace glauca . This is our most common large offshore shark.
Tiger - Galeocerdo cuvier: this shark has a somewhat blunt head, and a very
distinctive tooth shape. The serrated teeth have notches and are the same shape
in both upper and lower jaws. Tigers have vertical stripes or bars on the body.
*Dusky - Carcharhinus obscurus: Grayish in color, has the first dorsal start
just at the back of the pectoral fins. Protected species release unharmed.
*Sandbar - Carcharhinus plumbeus: Brownish in color, and has a very large
dorsal that starts over the back of the pectoral fins. Protected species release
The dusky, Carcharhinus obscurus, and the sandbar, Carcharhinus plumbeus,
look very much alike, and their teeth are similar. If the identity is narrowed down
to one or the other, look at their scales with a magnifying glass.
If the dermal denticles overlap - it is a dusky.
If the dermal denticles are not overlapped - it is a sandbar.
This is a typical sharks tail with the
upper lobe much longer than the lower lobe.
The 3 species below have a page on this website devoted to them.
*White - Carcharodon carcharias. A white will have serrated triangular teeth- a mako and
porbeagle will not. Protected species release unharmed.
Mako - Isurus oxyrinchus. a mako has long smooth edged dagger like teeth noiceably
clustered in the lower front of the jaw. No serrations, or cusps on the bottom of the teeth.
Porbeagle - Lamna nasus. Has a white area on the back bottom of the dorsal fin, and has
smooth edged teeth with protrusions on the bottom of each tooth. A porbeagle also has a short
secondary keel on the tail, just below where the body section joins the tail. Only two species have
that secondary keel, the salmon shark,which is on the West Coast, and the porbeagle.
Note: A basking shark, which is in a different family, has many of the body characteristics of the
mako, white and porbeagle, and is easily distinuished from them by its gills, which come very
close to reaching the top of its head. Also the basker, which is a filter feeder, does not have the
noticeable teeth of the white, mako or porbeagle.
Sharks in New England that will have the type of tail shown in the sketch below are the: dusky -
sandtiger - sandbar - smooth dogfish - spiny dogfish - tiger - blue - smooth
hammerhead. Threshers have a tail almost as long as the body.
Basking, porbeagle, white and mako sharks, have a more symetrical tail
Makos, whites and porbeagles have this body shape.
If the shark has a typical shark tail, as shown above, but is not identified
above; look at the back between the dorsals.
Is there a ridge there? If there is, there are 8 "ridgeback" sharks on the East Coast, and 5 of
them are in the New England area. They are the tiger, dusky, sandbar, spiny dogfish
and smooth dogfish. We identified the spiny dogfish, and the smooth dogfish above. That
leaves the tiger, dusky and sandbar, as the remaining "ridgeback" sharks in the area.
If the tail is more erect and more symetrical, like the sketch below, and the
body section flattens, and flares out going into the tail, and it has a very small second
dorsal fin, the shark is either a white, mako or porbeagle.
no anal fin