What makes a shark a shark? Are you picturing a big menacing predator like something from a scary movie? After all, the great white shark, hammerhead, and tiger sharks are quite intimidating. What is the smallest shark in the world?
The dwarf lanternshark is the smallest shark in the world. It is under 8″ (20 cm) in length and is bioluminescent. Other small shark species include pale catshark, smalleye pygmy shark, green lanternshark, and the spined pygmy shark. At under 12″, these are the smallest shark species in the world.
Interestingly, sharks are just a type of fish. But instead of bones, they have cartilage. Sharks also have 5-7 gill slits on each side of their bodies, whereas boney fish only have one.
So size has nothing to do with it. Some sharks are actually very cute and little (but don’t tell them that).
Smallest Shark Species (Chart)
Here is a table of the top 11 smallest sharks, all of which are less than a foot (30 cm) long.
|Rank||Common Name||Latin Name||Size||Range|
|1||Dwarf Lanternshark||Etmopterus perryi||7.9 inches (20 cm)||Off the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea|
|2||Pale Catshark||Apristurus sibogae||8.3 inches (21 cm) juvenile specimen||Makassar Strait, Indonesia|
|3||Smalleye Pygmy Shark||Squaliolus aliae||8.7 inches (22 cm)||The Pacific Ocean near Japan, the Philippines, and Australia|
|4||Panama Ghost Catshark||Apisturus stenseni||9.1 inches (23 cm)||Off the coast of Panama|
|5||Pygmy Ribbontail Catshark||Eridacnis radcliffei||9.4 inches (24 cm)||The western Indo-Pacific Ocean from Tanzania to the Philippines|
|6||Pygmy Shark||Euprotomicrus bispinatus||9.8 inches (25 cm)||Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans|
|7||Green Lanternshark||Etmopterus virens||10.2 inches (26 cm)||Western-Central Atlantic Ocean|
|8||Broadnose Catshark||Apristurus investigatoris||10.2 inches (26 cm) juvenile specimen||The Andaman Sea in the Indian Ocean|
|9||Spined Pygmy Shark||Squaliolus laticaudus||11 inches (28 cm)||All Oceans|
|10||Granular Dogfish||Centroscyllium granulatum||11 inches (28 cm)||Off the coast of Chile and the Falkland Islands in the south Atlantic Ocean|
|11||African Lanternshark||Etmopterus polli||11.8 inches (30 cm)||Eastern Atlantic Ocean|
Video Summary of the Smallest Sharks
Here’s a nice video summary of these tiny sharks.
11 Smallest Sharks in the World
Here’s more about each of these small shark species.
1. Dwarf Lanternshark
The Dwarf Lanternshark is the smallest shark in the world, measuring only 7.9 inches (20 centimeters) long. The male is even smaller at 6.9 inches (17.5 cm). So far, it has only been found in the waters off the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela.
Like other lantern sharks, the Dwarf Lanternshark is bioluminescent, meaning that it is capable of producing light.
2. Pale Catshark
Very little is known about the Pale Catshark, as only one specimen has been found. It was found swimming at a depth of 2148.6 feet (655 meters) below water in the Makassar Strait (between the islands of Borneo and Sulawesi in Indonesia).
Its length was 8.3 inches (21 cm), but it wasn’t yet fully grown.
3. Smalleye Pygmy Shark
This little shark is found in the Pacific Ocean near Japan, the Philippines, and Australia. It spends its days in deep water, and nights in shallower water. This is referred to as diel vertical migration. Its depth ranges from 490-6560 feet (150-2000 meters).
It is also bioluminescent, which may help to disguise it from the predators lurking below. Which is useful when you are only 8.7 inches (22 cm) long.
4. Panama Ghost Catshark
As indicated by its name, the Panama Ghost Catshark has only been found off the coast of Panama. They are mostly nocturnal, sleeping in groups during the day, and hunting at night. They are bottom feeders.
The Panama Ghost Catshark is 9.1 inches (23 cm) long.
5. Pygmy Ribbontail Catshark
This Catshark can be found in the western Indo-Pacific ocean from Tanzania to the Phillippines. It loves the parts of the ocean floor that have lots of mud.
Growing to a maximum length of 9.4 inches (24 cm), this little shark is adorable. but the bony fish, crustaceans, and squid that it feeds on may feel differently about that.
6. Pygmy Shark
Next on our list is the Pygmy Shark. This shark reaches lengths of 9.8 inches (25 cm). The Pygmy Shark has a wide distribution, being found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.
7. Green Lanternshark
Found in the western central Atlantic Ocean, the Green Lanternshark is a bit of a feisty fish.
In packs, they will often attack prey larger than themselves (like an octopus). Then again, it’s not hard to find someone larger than you when you are only 10.2 inches (26 cm) long.
8. Broadnose Catshark
So far, only one Broadnose Catshark has been found. This female specimen was 10.2 inches (26 cm) long, but she had not yet fully matured.
It was found in deep water in the Andaman Sea, which is part of the Indian Ocean.
9. Spined Pygmy Shark
Also known as the Dwarf Shark, or the Bigeye Dwarf Shark, the Spined Pygmy Shark can be found in oceans all over the world. It was first described in a scientific paper in 1912.
This big-eyed, slender-bodied shark grows up to 11 inches (28 cm) long.
10. Granular Dogfish
This small shark can be found deep in the waters off the coast of Chile and the Falkland Islands in the south Atlantic Ocean. They are seldom seen, except when caught by deep-sea shrimp fishermen.
It is thought that they grow up to 11 inches (28 cm) in length, although some estimate that they can grow to double that length.
11. African Lanternshark
As its name suggests, the African Lanternshark is found in the Atlantic Ocean, mostly off the western coast of Africa.
Although it is the biggest shark on this list, it is less than a foot long, measuring 11.8 inches (30 cm).
Keep reading: 17 Galapagos Shark Facts
Now you know about the 11 smallest sharks in the world (at least the ones we know about with our current scientific knowledge). Did our list surprise you? What other shark facts would you like to learn about? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Hello, I’m Diane Diegor. I’m a travel and nature enthusiast. I love learning about other cultures and tasting their food.
I’m a regular contributor to Storyteller Travel.