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A Guide to Sharks at the Museum

by AMNH on

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Shark Week happens only once a year, but you can see sharks anytime when you visit the Museum! Where are they? Here’s a handy guide to some of the shark species you can spot in the Museum’s special exhibitions and permanent halls.


Display of bioflourescent fish models "swimming" overhead in the Museum's Unseen Oceans exhibition.
See a model of a fluorescent chain catshark in the case just below the “fish tornado” in the special exhibition Unseen Oceans. Then, look up and see if you can spot one swimming above. (Hint, it's not far from the model of the Tasselled wobbegong shark.)
R. Mickens/©AMNH

Chain catshark model in Unseen Oceans

Did you know that some sharks glow with bright fluorescence that is invisible to the human eye? To us, chain catsharks appear tan with brownish black markings, but to other members of this species, whose eyes are packed with rods that can detect even very tiny amounts of light, the lines on their skin glow bright green—just like on the model on view in Unseen Oceans, a special exhibition open now through August 18, 2019. Chain catsharks’ fluorescent markings help these fish recognize each other in dimly lit waters more than 200 feet below the surface.

Visitor tip: Members see Unseen Oceans for free!


A 3D model of a mako shark in the Hall of Biodiversity.

Mako shark model in the Hall of Biodiversity 

The shortfin mako is the fastest shark around around: this species hits top speeds of 45-60 miles (72-96 km) per hour when hunting tuna, one of the fastest fish alive. A protractible jaw helps mako snatch its prey: when mako catches a tuna, its jaw projects outward, helping extend its reach and snatch its huge prey. Use the Museum's free Explorer app to get turn-by-turn directions to this model in the Hall of Biodiversity and launch the app's AR experience to see its powerful jaws in action!

Tail of the blue whale is in view in the foreground and beyond it, the model of the whale shark is in view.
A life-size model of a whale shark hangs on the back wall of the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, just past the tail of the blue whale.

Whale shark in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

Did you know that the world’s largest fish is actually a shark named after a mammal? Whale sharks can grow more than 40 feet in length. But while this species is huge—even larger than the fearsome great white—it's a filter feeder, snacking on small fish, squid, and krill. See a life-sized model of a whale shark in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

Bonus whale shark: Get up close with these majestic animals in the special 360-video immersive experience Swimming with Giants, open daily through August 18 in the same gallery.


Model of a bull shark hangs from the ceiling in the Museum's Hall of Biodiversity.
Look up to the canopy in the Hall of Biodiversity and see if you can spot the model bull shark.
R. Mickens/©AMNH

Bull shark in the Hall of Biodiversity

Bull sharks can live in both fresh and saltwater and have been found in shallow waters in estuaries, bays, and in rivers hundreds of miles from the oceans. But you won’t have to go far to spot one in the Museum. Just outside of the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, in the Hall of Biodiversity, look up at the canopy of marine species to see if you can spot the bull shark "swimming" overhead.


Two rows of four pointy shark teeth are attached to a twine-wrapped wooden shaft, creating a sharp weapon.
This wooden sword from the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati), on view in the Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples, features rows of shark teeth.
A. Ruse/©AMNH

Shark tooth sword in the Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples

Sharks shed and replace their sharp teeth throughout their lifetime. Wooden knives, spears, and swords from the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati) feature rows of shark teeth fastened with coconut fiber cord, designed for cutting and gashing. Examples of these weapons are on view in the Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples, along with daggers pointed with stingray spines.


Megalodon fossil jaw is suspended from the ceiling in the Museum's Hall of Vertebrate Origins.
See fossilized Carcharodon megalodon teeth in the Hall of Vertebrate Origins.

Carcharodon megalodon in the Hall of Vertebrate Origins

When it lived 10 million years ago, Carcharodon megalodon would have dwarfed even the whale shark in size. Like modern sharks, this ancient shark’s skeleton was made of cartilage, but its fossilized teeth survived the test of time. The Museum’s iconic Carcharodon teeth—on view in the Hall of Vertebrate Origins—were found in North Carolina.