Types Of Freshwater Sharks: The Sharks Of Rivers And Lakes

Dive in and discover the different types of freshwater sharks that inhabit rivers and lakes, showcasing their unique adaptations and behaviors.

Types of Freshwater Sharks
Freshwater species are a rare trait in the shark world.

If you're a shark lover, this guide will help you understand and identify several of the most iconic freshwater shark species known.

Few types of freshwater sharks exist due to the difficulty of saltwater shark species adapting to freshwater's low salt content. Without retaining salt, their cells can rupture, leading to bloating, death, and sinking in freshwater.

However, certain species have developed the ability to retain salt and recycle it within their bodies, meaning there are types of freshwater sharks in lakes and rivers found all over the world.

These 4 unique species have adapted to live in freshwater environments such as rivers and lakes.

Speartooth Shark

An adult Speartooth Shark swimming in dark freshwater
The Speartooth Shark (Glyphis Glyphis) is able to transition between both saltwater and freshwater.

The elusive Speartooth shark, or Glyphis can be found in both saltwater and freshwater environments. This incredibly rare type of freshwater shark is native to West Papua, Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia, residing most commonly on tropical riverbeds and fast flowing estuaries.

The Speartooth shark uses tidal currents to carry them upstream, which helps them preserve energy while feeding on fish and crustaceans.

Growing up to 9.8 feet in length, the characteristics of this sturdy shark species include a particularly wide head, flattened snout and small eyes.

Their mouths consist of approximately 29 rows of teeth on both the upper and lower jaws. While the Speartooth sharks teeth in the upper jaw are wide and serrated, the lower teeth are more narrow and spear-shaped, giving this type of freshwater shark it’s name.

Ganges Shark

A large Ganges Shark swimming in low visibility shallow water
The Ganges Shark (Glyphis Gangeticus) is often mistaken for the more dangerous Bull Shark.

The Ganges shark is a critically endangered marine species typically found in the Ganga, Hooghly, Mahanadi, and Brahmaputra rivers in India.

This shark species is considered a true river shark, since they are only ever found in the depths of rivers and freshwater ecosystems.

The Ganges shark can be recognised by its solid grey or brown colouring. They have particularly small eyes due to the poor visibility of its habitat, they can also be identified by their two spineless dorsal fins and wide, round snout.

People often consider this species to be a threat to life, however these types of freshwater sharks are often mistaken for the vicious Bull shark.

The Ganges shark is far less common, plus their teeth are specifically designed for puncturing fish as opposed to mammals, therefore human attacks are highly unlikely.

Bull Sharks

Face to face view of Adult Bull shark in freshwater
Bull sharks (Carcharhinus Leucas) are one of the top 3 shark species known to attack humans.

The Bull shark is a formidable and adaptable species commonly found in both saltwater and freshwater habitats worldwide. With a unique ability to tolerate low salinity levels, it can thrive in diverse environments.

Robust and aggressive, Bull sharks can inhabit unsuspecting areas, including freshwater lakes. Their preference for shallow waters, sometimes frequented by humans, can lead to occasional misunderstandings.

Identifying Bull sharks can be challenging due to their general shark-like appearance, often leading to confusion with other species like the Ganges River shark and even the Great White.

Interestingly, Bull sharks can be successfully kept in aquariums, making them popular choices for captivity where they can live for many years.

Borneo River Shark

The Borneo River Shark underwater from below
Because of its rarity, the Borneo River Shark (Carcharhinus borneensis) is often referred to as the ‘Mythical Shark’.

The Borneo River Shark is an incredibly rare freshwater shark species found in the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. It belongs to the Carcharhinidae or Requiem family, typically inhabiting warm tropical waters.

These slim and small sharks can reach a maximum length of 2 feet. Their slate-grey coloration, which darkens at the dorsal fins, aids in identification. With their heavily serrated teeth, the Borneo River Shark primarily preys on bony fishes like sardines and tuna.

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GREAT! Just when we thought it was safe to swim in a river!

Laurel English nn April 01, 2024

Wow that’s great, how I can get one for my swimming pool to guard the house?

Jano kamciyan August 23, 2022

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