Have you ever asked yourself: What sound does a shark make?
Answer: Sharks do emit subtle movement noises, but they do not vocalize in a way that human ears can perceive.
Instead, these remarkable creatures communicate through low-frequency sounds that go undetected by our ears can be recognized by other sharks and certain fish species.
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The Sounds of Sharks and Human Perception
I’ve spent the past three decades kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding, and I’ve only seen a shark once.
Did it alert me of its presence before appearing?
A shark is a silent predator. It lives or dies based on how efficiently it can stalk.
But the truth is, sharks do make noise. It’s just extremely subtle.
While we humans might not pick up these sounds (either because we’re above the surface or, if we’re below, due to our limited hearing range underwater), these noises vibrate through the water; other creatures can pick them up.
For kayakers, canoeists, or anyone on a small boat, these vibrations can sometimes be felt (it’s rare!), especially when a shark is very close. And if you’ve fallen overboard and you’re extremely unlucky, you might feel a shark’s approach.
(For more information on overboarding prevention, see our article “What Is Most Likely to Cause Someone to Fall Overboard? (Prevention Tips)”.)
Sharks produce low-frequency noises primarily through movement–a flick of a fin, a swift muscular contraction, or even the grinding of teeth.
Individual shark species such as the Great White, Draughtsboard, and Swell sharks each emit distinctive sounds. The Great White, known for its fearsome reputation, is believed by scientists to produce a drum-like sound, rhythmic and low, through the movement of its massive body and fin.
Scientists have discovered that Swell and Draughtsboard sharks are able to produce sounds by grinding their teeth together–a defensive mechanism, perhaps, or even a form of communication. Nobody really knows why they do it.
What Sound Does a Shark Make? (The Science Behind Shark Communication)
I’ve read quite a bit about this topic throughout my life, mostly because I want to be prepared in the event of a shark encounter.
The way I understand it, scientists believe that sharks use sound for a myriad of purposes, from navigation to mating and locating potential prey. The vibrations in the water caused by their low-frequency sounds help them navigate the vast underwater world, and certain clicks or distinctive sounds may play a vital role in attracting a mate.
One might wonder, do sharks actually bark or roar as we do? No, they don’t.
Some species like the swell shark inflate their bodies as a defensive mechanism, and in doing so, emit a sound that could be interpreted as a form of a bark or a growl. Again, this sound, while startling to other sea creatures, is more felt than heard by humans.
Not a single scientist, as far I know, can detect sounds coming from the water and definitively say, “That’s a shark vocalizing.” It’s not possible, given sharks’ lack of vocal cords.
But that doesn’t stop scientists from conducting extensive research on shark communication habits. Some scientists believe that sharks may even generate noises by smacking their pectoral fins against their bodies, a behavior potentially linked to mating rituals or as a warning to potential rivals.
Human Interaction and Its Impact On Shark Sounds
As humans, our interaction with the marine world, the way we hear sounds, and our body language can all have unintended consequences. Boating alone can generate noises that interfere with the complex world of shark communication and navigation.
Imagine this, if you will: a great white shark is on the hunt, using its ability to emit low-frequency vibrations and detect the subtle movements of potential prey. Suddenly, a motorboat engine drowns everything out.
The startled shark loses track of its prey and another hunt ends in failure.
Over time, frequent disruption can alter behaviors, making sharks less effective hunters. The different types of sounds from human activities may prevent sharks from attracting potential mates, which could affect their populations.
Our knowledge of these silent hunters grows every day, and with it comes a responsibility. We must understand and mitigate our impact on their lives to make sure these species live to see the next epoch.
Research on Shark Noises
Despite the strides we’ve made in unraveling the intricate world of shark communication, many aspects continue to puzzle scientists. There’s still much we don’t know about how these silent hunters produce and interpret the range of sounds in their vast underwater world.
Every bark, click, or drumming sound these animals make represents a piece of a complex puzzle that’s yet to be solved.
The more we understand their communication habits, the better equipped we’ll be to minimize our interference and create a healthier coexistence.
Sharks actually do make sounds, but they don’t vocalize, and the noises they make are usually quite subtle (which makes sense given how they normally hunt).
There’s still much to learn about these incredible creatures. As we continue to explore the mysteries of shark communication, we will undoubtedly uncover more about their fascinating and mysterious underwater kingdom.
What sound does a shark make?
Sharks make a variety of sounds depending on the species, but they do not make noises through vocalization. They have been known to produce sounds for communication and hunting.
Can sharks make noise?
Yes, sharks can make noise, but they are not vocal creatures.
How do sharks produce sound?
By using their bodies. Some species can create sounds by vibrating their swim bladder. Others produce sounds by rubbing their teeth together or by wagging their tails.
Can humans hear the sounds that sharks make?
Some sounds produced by sharks are within the audible range for humans, while others are not. Sharks primarily use sound for communication and hunting purposes, so their sounds may not always be detectable by human ears.
What is the purpose of sound production in sharks?
Sharks use sound production as a form of communication, to locate prey, to navigate, or to establish dominance and territoriality.
How do sharks detect the sounds they make?
Sharks have a specialized sensory system called the lateral line, which allows them to detect vibrations and movements in the water.
Do all species of sharks make sounds?
Not all species of sharks are known to produce sounds, but many have been observed making various types of sounds.
Are there any other ocean animals that make similar sounds to sharks?
Sure, some marine animals (like whales and dolphins) produce sounds similar to those made by sharks.
Can sharks roar like other animals?
Sharks do not have vocal cords like mammals, so they cannot roar.