These are the top 10 PSD ranked world’s smallest sharks. This information is based on the most current data. All of these sharks are under 12 inches or a foot long as mature adult shark.
Let the countdown begin!
Granular Dogfish Centroscyllium granulatum Known at least 28 cm or 11 inches
Pale Catshark Apristurus sibogae Known juvenile is 21 cm or 8.2 inches
10. Bristly Catshark Bythaelurus hispidus Max 29 cm or 11.4 inches mature
9. Lollipop Catshark Cephalurus cephalus Max 28 cm or 11 inches mature
8. Spined Pygmy Shark Squaliolus laticaudus Max 28 cm or 11 inches mature
7. Pygmy Shark Euprotomicrus bispinatus Max 27 cm or 10.6 inches mature
6. Broadnose Catshark Apristurus investigatoris Max 26 cm or 10.2 inches mature
5. Green Lanternshark Etmopterus virens Max 26 cm or 10.2 inches mature
4. Atlantic Ghost Catshark Apristurus atlanticus Max 25 cm or 9.8 inches mature
3. TIE: Pygmy Ribbontail Catshark Eridacnis radcliffei Max 24 cm or 9.4 inches mature
3. TIE: African Lanternshark Etmopterus polli Max 24 cm or 9.4 inches mature
2. Smalleye Pygmy Shark Squaliolus aliae Max 22 cm or 8.7 inches mature
TIE FOR 1.
Cylindrical Lanternshark or Carter Gilberts Lanternshark Etmopterus carteri Max 21 cm ore 8.3 inches mature
Dwarf Lanternshark Etmopterus perryi Max 21 cm ore 8.3 inches mature
Get to know each one of our miniature sharks!
Pale Catshark: The Pale Catshark (Apristurus sibogae) is a rare Catshark of the family Scyliorhinidae. It is a known holotype found on the Makassar Strait slope at a depth of 2,182 feet. They are oviparous. Its recorded length is 21 cm or 8.2 inches, although this measurement was taken from a juvenile specimen. Being only a juvenile, there is room for this shark to grow and we do not know the maximum length, and therefore we give it an honorable mention!
Granular Dogfish: The Granular Dogfish (Centroscyllium granulatum), is a little-known, very small Dogfish shark of the family Etmopteridae, prevalent to the Falkland Islands. The Granular Dogfish is brownish-black with a long abdomen. It has large eyes and prominent nostrils and spiracles. It has denticles closely together with sharp, hook-like cusps. Both jaws have comb-like teeth. The Granular Dogfish has no anal fin, two dorsal spines with the second one much larger than the first, a large second dorsal fin. It has small pectoral and pelvic fins. It is very small, growing to a minimum of 28 cm or 11 inches. Almost nothing is known about this shark. It has been caught at around a depth of 1,476 feet. Since it is 11 inches minimum, we gibe the Granular Dogfish an honorable mention!
10. Bristly Catshark: The Bristly Catshark (Bythaelurus hispidus) is a small, elongated pale-brown or even whiteish catshark of the family Scyliorhinidae. Sometimes it has faint, grey crossbands with white or dusky spots. It is found from the northern Indian ocean to the southeastern Indian ocean and the Andaman Islands, between latitudes 15° N and 5° N, at depths between 656 and 2,546 feet on the bottom or upper-continental slopes. The skin is bristly and it has a short, rounded snout with a long, arched mouth. Its length is up to 29 cm or 11.4 inches mature, however they are typically between 22 and 24 cm or 8.7 and 9.5 inches in length.
9. Lollipop Catshark: The Lollipop Catshark (Cephalurus cephalus) is a little-known species of deep-sea catshark, belonging to the family Scyliorhinidae. A tiny, bottom-dwelling shark of the outer continental shelf and upper continental slope, this species can be identified by its tadpole-like shape with a greatly expanded, rounded head and narrow body. The large head has expanded gills, which are thought to be an adaptation for hypoxic conditions. Research suggests that it spends its time in deep-sea basins with very low levels of dissolved oxygen and possibly high temperatures and salinity. The teeth of the Lollipop Catshark are widely spaced and have a large central cusp flanked by 1–3 cusplets on both sides; the upper teeth are straight while the lower teeth are curved somewhat outward. They eat crustaceans and fish. They are plain brownish grey all over, sometimes lightening to almost white at the dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fin margins. The eyes are equipped with a reflective tapetum lucidum that produces that yellow-green eye shine typical of deep-sea sharks and other deep-sea creatures. The body is very soft, almost gelatinous and the skin is delicate and thinly covered by thorn-like dermal denticles interspersed with narrower hair-like denticles that become more plentiful on the back of the shark. The Lollipop Catshark is ovoviviparous.
8. Spined Pygmy Shark: The Spined Pygmy shark (Squaliolus laticaudus) is in the order of Dogfish shark in the family Dalatiidae (Kitefin sharks) found widely in all oceans. Growing no larger than 28 cm or 11 inches (maximum female), it is one of the smallest sharks alive. Males are typically 15 cm or 5.9 inches, and females are typically between 17-20 cm or 6.7 and 8 inches. The maximum recorded male was 22 cm or 8.7 inches. It has a slender, cigar-shaped body with a conical snout, a long but low second dorsal fin, and an almost symmetrical caudal fin. Spined Pygmy sharks are dark brown to black, with abundant bioluminescent organs called photophores on their ventral surface. It is believed that they use them for counter illumination. They typically can be found over upper continental and insular slopes. It conducts a diel vertical migration, spending the day at close to 1,600 feet deep and moving towards a depth of 660 feet at night. It feeds on squid and small bony fished that also migrate in the same way within the 24-hour cycle. Spined Pygmy sharks are thought to be ovoviviparous, with a maximum of 4 pups per litter.
7. Pygmy Shark: The Pygmy shark (Euprotomicrus bispinatus), is one of the smallest shark species. The Pygmy shark is of the Dalatiidae family (Kitefin sharks). Their lengths are between 22-23 cm 8-9 inches for females and between 17-19 cm or 6-7.5 inches for mature males. The maximum recorded Pygmy shark was 27 cm or 10.6 inches. Pygmy sharks are oceanic and amphitemperate. They are found in the south Atlantic, the south Indian, and the Pacific Oceans. Pygmy sharks are epipelagic, mesopelagic, and possibly bathypelagic in mid-ocean to bottom at depths between 6,000 and 32,605 feet. Pygmy sharks migrate from the surface at night to depths greater than 4,921 feet by day. This is at least mid-water and maybe to the bottom. Perhaps their glowing pouch stores this energy by day, and emits it at night in deeper depths used for counter illumination?
6. Broadnose Catshark: The Broadnose catshark (Apristurus investigatoris) is a catshark of the family Scyliorhinidae. It is a known holotype found in deep water in the Andaman Sea in the Indian Ocean between 16 and 10°N. This male’s recorded length is 26 cm. There is some speculation if this male reached sexual maturity or not, so some speculate they could grow longer, but this is unconfirmed. Research suggests they are oviparous. Based on limited data, until more research surfaces, the Broadnose Catshark will remain in 6th place.
5. Green Lanternshark: The Green lanternshark (Etmopterus virens) is a species of Dogfish shark in the family Etmopteridae, found in the western central Atlantic Ocean. They can be found on the upper continental slope below a depth of 1,150 feet. Reaching 26 cm or 10.2 inches in length, the Green Lanternshark has a slender body with a long, thin tail and low, conical dermal denticles on its flanks. It is dark brown or gray with ventral black coloration, which contain light-emitting photophores that may be used for counter illumination or other functions. They may attack their prey, squid and octopus often larger than themselves, in packs. Green Lanternsharks are ovoviviparous and have litters with 1-3 pups. They are dark brown to gray and the undersides of the body and snout are black, with a broad, black marking above and behind each pelvic fin, and thin, black marks on the tail. These black markings contain abundant light-emitting photophores as well. Mature males are typically 18 cm or 7.1 inches and mature females 22 cm or 8.7 inches.
4. Atlantic Ghost Catshark: The Atlantic Ghost Catshark (Apristurus atlanticus), also known as the Atlantic Catshark, is the next small species on the list and reaches 25 cm or 9.8 inches in length. It lives in the Eastern Atlantic around the Portuguese island of Madeira, though it is unknown at what depth. Scientists estimate like other Catsharks, it is a deep-water shark. The Atlantic Ghost Catshark is brown in color and eats small fish. It has a big snout, with enlarged nostrils and very large eyes. It has two small dorsal fins, with a relatively large anal fin with a broad base.
3. TIE: Pygmy Ribbontail Catshark: The Pygmy Ribbontail Catshark (Eridacnis radcliffei) is a species of Finback Catshark of the family Proscylliidae. It is found patchy in the western Indo-Pacific from Tanzania to the Philippines. They are found around the edges of continental and insular shelves at a depth of 233–2,513 feet, on or near mud bottoms. One of the smallest living shark species, the Pygmy Ribbontail Catshark grows to a maximum known length of 24 cm or 9.4 inches. It has a slender body with a low, ribbon-like tail fin, and is dark brown in color with blackish dorsal fin markings and tail bands. It mainly eats bony fishes, and sometimes crustaceans and squid. It is ovoviviparous, having only 1 or 2 pups per litter. The pups are born proportionally large at 11 cm. Mature males are typically 18-19 cm or 7.1-7.5 inches and mature females between 15-16 cm or 5.9-6.3 inches.
3. TIE: African Lanternshark: The African Lanternshark (Etmopterus polli) is a shark of the family Etmopteridae found in the eastern Atlantic between latitudes 12°N and 18°S, at depths between 984-3,281 feet. Reproduction is through to be ovoviviparous. Its maximum recorded length is 24 cm or 9.4 inches. There is one unconfirmed account of one reaching 30 cm. Since this is unconfirmed, the African Lanternshark will remain in a tied position for 3rd until more data is recovered and recorded.
2. Smalleye Pygmy Shark: The Smalleye Pygmy shark (Squaliolus aliae) is a little-known species belonging to the order of Dogfish shark in the family Dalatiidae (Kitefin sharks), found in water 490–6,560 feet deep near Japan, the Philippines, and Australia. Like most of our Kitefin sharks, it performs a diel vertical migration, spending the day in deep water and the night in shallower water. One of the smallest shark species, the Smalleye Pygmy shark is known to reach only 22 cm or 8.7 inches long. Mature males are typically 15 cm or 5.9 inches long. It has a blackish, spindle-shaped body with small eyes, and a spine preceding the first dorsal fin, but not the second. Bioluminescent photophores occur on its underside, which may serve as counter illumination.
TIED FOR 1st! Cylindrical Lanternshark or Carter Gilbert’s Lanternshark: The Cylindrical Lanternshark or Carter Gilbert’s Lanternshark (Etmopterus carteri) is a shark of the family Etmopteridae found along the Caribbean coast of Colombia in South America, at depths of between 935-1,165 feet. Its maximum length is 21 cm or 8.3 inches. Mature males and females are typically 18 cm or 7.1 inches. Reproduction is presumed to be ovoviviparous, with 3-20 pups of 10-20 cm in length per litter.
TIED FOR 1st! Dwarf Lanternshark: The Dwarf Lanternshark (Etmopterus perryi) is a little-known species belonging to the order of dogfish shark in the family Etmopteridae and possibly the smallest shark in the world, reaching a maximum known length of 21 cm or 8.3 inches. Mature males are typically between 16-17 cm or 6.3-6.7 inches and mature females around 19 cm or 7.5 inches. It is known to be present only on the upper continental slopes off Colombia and Venezuela, at a depth of 928–1,440 feet. It has a long, flattened head and a pattern of black ventral markings and a mid-dorsal line. It is capable of producing light from a distinctive array of photophores, and are more than likely used for counter illumination. It is ovoviviparous having 2-3 pups per litter born at only 6 cm.
All of the sharks in our list today are unique, mighty in the sea, but minuscule in size. As research and science and data collection progresses, it is understood that at any point in time, one of our mini-sharks may be bumped from, or moved around in our list. Make sure to follow us on Instagram, FaceBook and LinkedIn, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Subscribe right here with your email for the latest news surrounding everything sharks!