If you try to picture a shark, you’ll probably imagine something that looks like a great white. As well as being the deadliest shark in the world, the great white has a pretty standard shark shape, albeit a large one.
Many of the pelagic sharks share a similar general appearance, but we’re here to talk about some of the strangest and weirdest sharks that roam the oceans.
As we consider each weird-looking shark, we will come across rare types of sharks and even funny-looking sharks. But, rest assured, they’re all interesting and possibly even surprising.
What Is the Weirdest Shark in the World?
Our choice for the weirdest shark in the world is the megamouth shark. It’s a giant of the shark world that’s rarely seen, and it definitely looks weird compared to more conventional sharks.
Megamouth Shark (Megachasma pelagios)
The megamouth can grow as big as 5.49 meters (18.0 feet), yet because it spends most of its time in very deep water, less than 100 have ever been observed since it was discovered in 1976.
Unsurprisingly, the megamouth shark has a huge mouth. The large head has jaws with rubbery lips that contain as many as 50 rows of tiny teeth in the upper jaw and 75 in the lower.
Megamouths have unusually soft, fat-looking bodies with a wide, rounded snout that makes them look a little like a young orca.
The shark isn’t the strongest of swimmers, and it typically moves at speeds of less than 2 km/h / 1.2 mph.
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This colossal shark has managed to get so big just by eating plankton. They move through the seas with their large bathtub-sized mouths open and use gill rakers inside their gill slits to filter food from the water.
This filter-feeding shark is a fascinating creature, and its weird appearance makes it like no other shark species.
14 Strange and Weird Looking Sharks
There are over 500 species of shark in the earth’s oceans, so the opportunity for strange sharks and weird sharks is plentiful.
Here’s a look at 14 that we think are amongst the most interesting unusual sharks in the world.
#1 Frilled Shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus)
The frilled shark looks exceptionally unusual, and it’s also one of several rare sharks on our list.
Some people refer to the frilled shark as being a living fossil. It has weird eel-like features and six pairs of frilled gill slits, giving it a unique appearance.
The frilled shark is found in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, where it leaves the depths to hunt its food near the water’s surface at night.
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Like an eel, the frilled shark twists and lunges at its prey which it captures with an incredible set of flexible jaws lined with more than 300 needle-like razor-sharp teeth.
Frilled sharks are a living fossil that can swallow food up to half their own size whole. They can grow as large as 2.0 meters (6.6 feet), making frilled sharks a pretty effective hunter!
#2 Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)
What makes whale sharks weird looking?
This is a fish with dark gray skin covered in white spots and stripes with tiny eyes and a huge mouth, and it just happens to be the largest shark and, accordingly, the largest fish in the entire world!
Reaching up to an incredible 18.8 meters (61.7 feet) long, whale sharks are a carpet shark that roams tropical waters with their enormous mouths open to suck in enough plankton to sustain their vast bulk.
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Scuba divers and snorkelers lucky enough to come across this slow swimmer in the wild are astonished to see how relaxed the largest shark is. Whale sharks are harmless to people unless you get in their way.
The most significant chance of a whale shark injuring you is with an accidental flick of its massive tail!
#3 Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus)
Like the whale shark and megamouth, the basking shark is another giant filter-feeding shark.
The dark brown to black mottled basking shark is a strange-looking beast, and many an unwitting person has been surprised to see such a large fish and discover that it’s completely harmless.
The basking sharks sizable dorsal fin sticks high above the water as it feeds on plankton at the surface. This fin often flops to one side, which can make a basking shark look quite amusing.
#4 Cookie cutter Shark (Isistius brasiliensis)
Cookiecutter sharks are one of the craziest sharks around, with a dark brown body that some people think looks like a stretched cigar.
The cookie cutter shark has one of the strangest feeding methods to go with their odd appearance. This shark uses its round jaws to bite lumps from other live sea animals.
The cookiecutter shark will happily take a bite out of anything it can find, including fish, marine mammals, and even the largest sharks.
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Cookiecutter sharks leave a tell-tale round crater wound. Diseased or weakened sea animals, including dolphins and whales, have been found covered in hundreds of bite marks from an opportunistic cookie-cutter.
#5 Greenland Shark (Somniosus microcephalus)
Greenland sharks look strange and are said to be the longest-living vertebrates found on earth, with an estimated lifespan of 250 to 500 years.
This is a deep-sea shark found in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.
To survive in these inhospitable waters, the Greenland shark has developed its own antifreeze, which also makes its flesh poisonous unless prepared over months in a special boiling, drying, and fermenting process.
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Greenland sharks look prehistoric, as you may imagine. They have tiny eyes, so they rely on smell and hearing to hunt in the deep ocean.
Observed specimens have ranged from blackish-brown to pale cream-gray-colored bodies with occasional white patches.
#6 Thresher Sharks (Family Alopiidae)
Thresher sharks make our list thanks to their incredibly long tail fin, which looks strange and distinctive compared to other sharks.
The tail can measure as long as the thresher shark’s total body length, and it has an unusual use.
Thresher sharks will swipe their tails like a whip through the water to stun their prey. Once the fish are stunned by the strike or even cut in half, the thresher shark will spin around to enjoy its meal.
#7 Saw Sharks (Order Pristiophoriformes)
As soon as you see a saw shark, it’s obvious where it gets its name and how it gets onto a list of weird-looking sharks.
The saw shark has an impressive saw-like snout covered in sharp teeth that it uses to injure its food before it feeds.
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Most of the saw shark’s meals are buried in the sand. The saw shark will use its electrical sensing organs to locate the unlikely victim before slashing its nose into the seabed.
Once the food is immobilized, the saw shark digs it out to enjoy.
#8 Angel Shark (Squatina squatina)
The angel shark looks a lot more like a ray than a shark. However, a shark it most definitely is.
Angel sharks have flattened bodies and broad pectoral fins like rays. However, as you look backward, they have shark-like bodies and tails.
The angel shark is found on sandy seabeds where it tends to rest, partially buried, like an ambush predator waiting for a meal.
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Angel sharks have wide, extendable jaws, and they will snap open and lunge at their food, creating a vacuum that sucks fish or crustaceans into their mouths to be swallowed whole.
#9 Wobbegongs (Family Orectolobidae)
Wobbegong sharks are a carpet shark with distinctive barbels and flaps of skin that hang beneath their mouths.
The shark gets its name from the native Australian word meaning shaggy beard, which seems most appropriate.
The wobbegong shark is well camouflaged, and this helps it stay hidden while it feeds amongst the coral reef of the Pacific Ocean and eastern Indian Ocean.
Wobbegong sharks are ambush predators, and they will spend hours sitting on the ocean floor in one spot waiting for food to come past.
Wobbegong sharks aren’t considered dangerous to humans, although accidental injuries have taken place when the shark has accidentally been trodden on or handled.
Wobbegongs are incredibly flexible and can readily bend to bite any hand foolish enough to grab their tails.
#10 Hammerhead Sharks (Family Sphyrnidae)
It would be impossible to have a weird-looking shark list without featuring the hammerhead shark.
Amongst many other benefits, The unusually shaped head gives the hammerhead shark enhanced sensory powers, increasing their electrical senses, smell, and eyesight.
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It also provides extra space, allowing hammerhead sharks to have larger than average brains than other sharks in the world.
Of the nine species of hammerhead shark, the great hammerhead shark is by far the largest.
This colossal shark can reach 6.6 meters (21.6 feet) in length, and the great hammerhead shark likes nothing more than to use its hammer to trap stingrays to feed on.
#11 Horn Shark (Heterodontus francisci)
The horn shark is a small shark that likes to hide in rocky crevices until it’s time to come out to hunt at night.
Unusually horn sharks will often crawl along the bottom instead of swimming as they seek their favorite mollusks and sea urchins to eat.
Horn sharks get their name from the distinctive ridges over their eyes on their blunt heads. They also have unusual twin dorsal fins, which have defensive spines ready to make it difficult for any predator to capture them.
These sharks don’t like to travel far, making a horn shark one of the few suitable for keeping in large home aquariums.
#12 Viper Shark (Trigonognathus kabeyai)
Also known as the viper dogfish, the viper shark is a rare deep-sea species that wasn’t discovered until 1986.
The viper dogfish has a slender dark body and a flattened head with an extendable mouth packed with ragged needle-like teeth.
It certainly does resemble a snake, so its name is appropriate.
Like many deep-sea creatures, the viper dogfish possesses bioluminescent cells on its skin which emit light patterns in the pitch dark waters to attract its prey.
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You’re not likely to ever see a viper shark as scientists believe they spend most of their time in depths of 270–360 m (890–1,180 ft).
They may come as shallow as 150 m (490 ft) at night to feed, but that’s too deep for this scuba diver.
#13 Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)
Nurse sharks of the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific ocean are unusual as they are possibly the laziest shark in the world.
When scuba divers approach most sharks, they tend to swim away pretty quickly. However, the nurse shark will typically sit still, sleepily resting on the bottom, unless it has no choice but to move.
The nurse shark likes to eat small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. They are obligate suction feeders that rapidly open their mouths to suck in their meals for their powerful jaws to deal with.
If it sucks in something too big to fit into its small mouth, the nurse shark will violently shake its prey until it’s stunned enough to eat in smaller pieces.
#14 Whorl Shark (Helicoprion)
The last entry on this list is an extinct species just for fun. However, as it’s one of the craziest sharks ever known, we thought it was worth including. After all, what could be lurking in the deep ocean?
Fossilized remains have shown that the whorl shark was a shark with crazy teeth. Whorl sharks had buzzsaw-like lower jaws that are so unusual that the first remains found were thought to be strange spirals of sharp snail shells.
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Scientists believe that the whorl of teeth was used to cut and slash the shark’s prey as it rapidly opened and closed its mouth.
As the shark moved its jaw, the rounded shape of the teeth would effectively hold the prey while also drawing it deeper into the mouth to swallow.
What Is the Ugliest Shark?
The title of the ugliest shark must go to the goblin shark. Let’s answer what does the ugliest shark look like.
Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)
To say that the goblin shark has a distinctive “living-fossil” appearance would be an understatement.
The goblin shark has a long flat snout sticking out of its head like a horn and a large flat extended tail. Goblin sharks have stubby fins and a fat, soft body covered in translucent pink skin.
This is also a shark with crazy teeth. Goblin sharks jaws have sharp teeth protruding from them, giving them an ugly, horror movie-like appearance.
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Goblin sharks can extend their jaws out almost as far as their snout tip, and they can open up their massive mouth to a 111-degree angle to catch prey of significant size.
The goblin shark lives in extreme depths of the ocean, with its typical range expected to be between 270–960 m (890–3,150 ft) deep.
What Is the Most Exotic Shark?
Our next shark, the ninja lanternshark, is exotic, extremely rare, and also decidedly weird and strange looking.
Ninja Lanternshark (Etmopterus benchleyi)
Ninja lanternsharks are a small shark species found off the coast of Central America.
The shark is entirely black except for white areas surrounding its mouth and eyes.
The shark’s skin has bioluminescent cells that give off a gentle glow thought to provide camouflage against predators approaching from below.
The unusual name for this shark came from two young cousins of the scientist who discovered it. They said that the sleek black skin and white eye surrounding reminded them of a “super ninja.”
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What Is the Rarest Shark?
The answer to what’s the rarest shark leads us to an incredible discovery, a shark that was thought until recently to be extinct.
Ganges Shark (Glyphis gangeticus)
This particular shark is so rare that it was not known to exist at all between 1867 and 1996 when a specimen was unexpectedly discovered.
The Ganges shark is a true river shark that can exist in freshwater. It is believed to grow to a maximum size of about 204 cm (80 in).
Although very little is known about its population or distribution, the shark is regarded as critically endangered as sightings are so uncommon.
The Ganges body is thickly set with a tall first dorsal fin. It has tiny eyes that are tilted upward, similar to a deep-sea shark, and it is believed this is due to the highly turbid water that it lives in, where eyesight is practically useless.
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Specimens of the shark have occasionally appeared in fish markets, although it is often mistaken for the more common bull shark.
Weird Looking Shark Conclusion
That’s our compilation of the weirdest-looking shark species.
The shark world is filled with a wide variety of fascinating species.
Their distribution amongst the world’s different ocean temperatures and depths means that they’ve adapted to the environments, leaving some unusual sharks looking pretty strange.
What do you think is the weirdest looking shark of all? Let us know what you think in the comments.
British-born Dan has been a scuba instructor and guide in Egypt’s Red Sea since 2010.
Dan loves inspiring safe, fun, and environmentally responsible diving and particularly enjoys the opportunity to dive with sharks or investigate local shipwrecks.
When not spending time underwater, Dan can usually be found biking and hiking in Sharm’s desert surroundings.