Know Your Fin

Great White Sharks, Tiger Sharks, and More: Which Are Deadly or Friendly? (PHOTOS)

The Daily Beast investigates which shark species are deadliest and which are friendly.

A great white shark apparently bit a swimmer on the leg in Cape Cod on Monday. But are there some sharks that are friendly? The Daily Beast finds out which shark species you should avoid at all costs and which you could hitch a ride on.

Jason Isley / Scubazoo / Corbis

Friendly: Nurse Shark

You've probably seen a member of this sluggish species in the aquarium at your local zoo. Native to the Atlantic and eastern Pacific, nurse sharks can be found in shallow water along western Africa as well as both coasts of North and South America—and they particularly like Florida. Although they can grow to be 10 feet long, they tend to swim away when approached by humans—but they will bite defensively if bothered.

Kike Calvo / AP Images

Dangerous: Great White Shark

With a whopping 263 unprovoked attacks on humans (including 69 fatalities) and 60 boat attacks on its record, the great white is well known for its predatory tendencies. At 17 feet long, it's no wonder the great white inspired the huge attacker in Jaws. The great white shark is thought to be behind Tuesday’s attack on a swimmer at a Cape Cod beach—and great whites are found just about everywhere, so if you're swimming in the ocean and start hearing that famous shark-attack music, you should probably start making your way to shore.

Yves Lefebre / AP Photo

Friendly: Smalleye Hammerhead Shark

Although a few species of hammerhead can be dangerous to humans, the smalleye is known to be relatively docile. Living near the beaches of eastern South America, the smalleye is pretty shy around humans—if anything, humans are the dangerous ones: smalleye hammerheads are sometimes accidentally caught in fishing nets and sold as food.

Stuart Westmorland / Corbis

Dangerous: Tiger Shark

Found in most coastal tropical and subtropical waters, the tiger shark can grow up to 25 feet long and live for up to 50 years. Second only to the great white in attacking humans, tiger sharks will eat anything from crustaceans to dolphins and even other sharks—they are known as the “wastebasket of the sea.” But some think they're even more powerful than that: according to native Hawaiian mythology, the tiger shark is known as a ‘aumakua, or the spirit of ancestors.

Henry Walcott / AP Photo

Friendly: Whale Shark

This tropical shark can, at an average of 30 feet long and with a five-foot-wide mouth, seem extremely intimidating. But like a friendly giant, the whale shark are pretty harmless—and they sometimes even let swimmers hitch a ride. Their food consumption consists mostly of algae, plankton, and krill. It turns out such a light diet is great for their health: this giant fish can live to be 70 years old.

Terry Moore / Corbis

Dangerous: Bull Shark

With an aggressive nature, an appreciation for shallow waters worldwide, and an ability to go fairly far up freshwater rivers, the bull shark can be pretty scary. Likely responsible for most near-shore shark attacks, bull sharks are the third most likely species of shark to attack humans. One South Carolina woman became a viral sensation this summer when a bull shark leaped out of the water and chomped down on the end of her fishing line.

Rob Griffith / AP Photo

Friendly: Banded Wobbegong

The banded wobbegong (an Aboriginal word for "shaggy beard") are bottom-dwellers that are found along the southern coast of Australia. Banded wobbegongs can grow up to 10 feet long, but they are for the most part couch potatoes, sitting on the ocean floor and waiting to attack small fish that happen to swim by. But they have sharp teeth and have been known to bite people who have stepped on them in shallow water.

Norbert Wu / Corbis

Dangerous: Blacktip Shark

The blacktip shark is extremely widespread, living in pretty much every tropical or subtropical coastal area—and is especially populous in Florida. While the blacktip shark is thought to be behind most bites in Florida, there has never been a fatality in the region attributed to them. Maybe their aggression is due to some sexual frustration: blacktip sharks live in sexually segregated schools, except during mating season—and in 2008, DNA evidence suggested a female blacktip shark impregnated herself.

Norbert Wu / Minden Pictures / Corbis

Friendly: Pygmy Shark

True to its name, the pygmy shark is only about 8 to 10 inches long. Found in subtropical waters worldwide, the pygmy shark is too small to really do anything to you. But that doesn’t mean they can’t scare you: the tiny sharks have glowing bellies and use the light to camouflage themselves—so those bursts of light in the sea are tiny sharks, not water bugs!

Andy Murch / Corbis

Dangerous: Shortfin Mako Shark

The shortfin mako may not be the biggest (at 8 feet, it's 24 feet shorter than the whale shark), but it's definitely the fastest. It can regularly go about 18 miles an hour, with a top recorded speed of 43 miles per hour. Found in the western Atlantic from Argentina to even in the Gulf of Mexico, it has 33 attacks on humans  and nine boat attacks on its record since 1980, including two fatalities.