A Guide to Sharks at the Museum

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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 just a few of the sharks you can see 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 the Unseen Oceans section on biofluorescence. 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!

 

Illustration shows a lateral view of a mako shark with as well as a depiction of just its jaw and teeth.

German zoologist Johannes Muller’s 1841 illustrations of shortfin mako sharks are featured in the special exhibition Opulent Oceans.

R. Mickens/©AMNH


Shortfin mako illustration in Opulent Oceans

The shortfin mako shark is one of the fastest sharks around. It holds the speed record for the longest distance traveled: one individual swam about 1,300 miles in 37 days. In the special exhibition Opulent Oceans, German zoologist Johannes Muller’s 1841 illustrations of the shortfin mako show off another distinct feature of this powerful fish: its jaws. Muller’s detailed color drawings juxtapose the shark’s jaws with its long, streamlined body.

 

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.

© AMNH


Whale shark in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

The world’s largest fish is actually a shark. 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-size model of a whale shark in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

Bonus shark: Get up close with these gentle giants in the special exhibition Unseen Oceans, featuring life-size animations of these and other marine titans.

 

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 and 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 trident-like 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.

© AMNH


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.

 

 

Tags: Fossils, shark