Do Sharks Make Noise Types of Shark Sounds

With their reputation as silent and stealthy ocean predators, sharks might not be the first creatures to come to mind when considering marine noise. However, the underwater world inhabited by these fascinating creatures is not as silent as one might think. This article will delve into the intriguing question: Do sharks make noise? What sounds do sharks produce, and what purposes might these sounds serve?

Sonic Exploration: Do Sharks Produce Sound?

Perception of Shark Silence

Sharks are often perceived as silent hunters, cruising through the depths without making a sound. This perception stems from the fact that sharks lack a swim bladder, a gas-filled organ found in bony fish that is associated with sound production. Unlike bony fish, sharks do not rely on this organ for buoyancy, contributing to the belief that they move effortlessly and silently through the water.

The Reality of Shark Sounds

Contrary to the common perception, sharks do produce sounds, although they are not as conspicuous as the vocalizations of some other marine animals. Sharks’ sounds are typically subtle and may go unnoticed without specialized equipment.

Types of Shark Sounds

Sharks produce sounds, including growls, barks, clicks, whistles, bleats, croaks, and even musical notes.

1. Hissing and Popping Sounds:

Some shark species, like the nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum), are known to produce hissing and popping sounds. These sounds are attributed to the contraction of muscles associated with the spiracles, small openings behind the eyes that allow water intake.

2. Jaw Clicks:

The jaw clicks of sharks are perhaps the most well-known sounds associated with these creatures. Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are notable for their distinctive jaw clicks, a sound produced when the sharks roll back their eyes and open their mouths wide. This behavior is believed to be associated with communication or threat displays.

3. Courtship and Mating Sounds:

During courtship and mating, some shark species engage in behaviors that produce sounds. Male sharks may use claspers, specialized reproductive organs, to grasp the female during mating. The interaction of claspers with the female’s body can result in audible sounds.

4. Communication Sounds:

While not extensively studied, sharks may use subtle sounds for communication. These sounds include establishing territory, signaling mating readiness, or coordinating group movements.

Sounds Various sharks are known to create.

1. Growls and Musical Notes: Great White Shark

  • Description: Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are recognized for their deep growls and even musical notes.
  • Characteristics: These sounds are likely associated with communication, threat displays, or social interactions. The exact purpose of the musical notes remains a subject of ongoing research.

2. Drumming Sounds: Draughtsboard Shark

  • Description: Draughtsboard sharks, also known as Australian swell sharks (Cephaloscyllium laticeps), are known to produce drumming sounds.
  • Characteristics: The drumming sounds may serve various purposes, including communication, mating rituals, or establishing territory. The mechanism by which they produce these sounds is still not fully understood.

3. Pulsed Calls, Clicks, and Whistles: Orca (Orcinus orca)

  • Description: Orcas, also known as killer whales, are not sharks but are included here for comparison. They prey on cartilaginous fishes, including large sharks and rays.
  • Characteristics: Orcas are highly vocal and produce various sounds, including pulsed calls, whistles, and echolocation clicks. These vocalizations are crucial for communication, hunting, and navigation.

4. Barking Sharks: Swellshark, New Zealand shark, and Draughtsboard Shark

  • Description: The swellshark and the draughtsboard shark are known to “bark” underwater and on land.
  • Characteristics: When threatened, these sharks produce barking sounds. The exact mechanism and purpose of these sounds are not fully understood. The swellshark and draughtsboard shark use a similar mechanism to create barking sounds involving the intake or expulsion of water.

5. Silent Hunters: Whale Shark

  • Description: Unlike many other sharks, whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are known as silent hunters.
  • Characteristics: These gentle giants do not produce sounds actively. Their feeding behavior is characterized by filter-feeding, and they do not rely on vocalizations for communication or hunting.

Mechanisms of Shark Sound Production

Understanding how sharks produce sounds involves exploring the anatomical and physiological features associated with sound generation.

1. Spiracles:

Some sharks have specialized openings called spiracles located behind their eyes. These spiracles play a role in respiration, and the sounds associated with spiracles are often linked to respiratory processes.

2. Hyoid Arch:

The hyoid arch, a structure in the shark’s throat region, is another element involved in sound production. Movements of the hyoid arch, especially in conjunction with clasper use during mating, can contribute to the production of audible clicks and pops.

3. Buoyancy Changes:

While sharks lack a swim bladder, changes in buoyancy can also result in sounds. Rapid ascents or descents may lead to the expansion or compression of gases, creating audible effects.

The Ecological Significance of Shark Sounds

Understanding the sounds produced by sharks is crucial for unraveling their ecological roles and behaviors.

1. Hunting Strategies:

The subtlety of shark sounds may play a role in their hunting strategies. Silent approaches could be advantageous when stalking prey, allowing sharks to get closer without detection.

2. Social Dynamics:

Even if imperceptible to the human ear, communication sounds may be vital for social interactions among sharks. Establishing dominance, signaling mating readiness, or coordinating movements within a group could be facilitated through these sounds.

3. Mating Rituals:

Sounds associated with courtship and mating rituals are essential for reproductive success. Female sharks may use these sounds to assess the fitness and suitability of potential mates.

4. Territoriality:

Some shark sounds may be linked to territorial behavior. Establishing and defending territory is crucial for access to resources, and sound can be an effective means of communication in this context.

How sharks use sound?

In the vast expanse of the ocean, where visibility can be limited, sharks rely on various senses to navigate their surroundings and locate prey. Among these senses, a shark’s hearing stands out as a crucial tool for detecting prey from significant distances. Here’s how sharks leverage sound to their advantage:

  1. Acute Hearing: A shark’s sense of hearing is considered its most acute. The structure of a shark’s internal ear shares similarities with that of humans, but it is significantly more sensitive. This heightened sensitivity allows sharks to detect sounds and vibrations in the water with remarkable precision.
  2. Sound Propagation in Water: Sound travels faster and farther in water than in air. This aquatic environment provides an ideal medium for sharks to use sound as a long-distance communication tool. The ability to detect subtle sounds in the water helps sharks locate prey, navigate, and communicate with other sharks.
  3. Prey Detection: Sharks use their acute sense of hearing to detect the sounds produced by potential prey. Whether it’s the subtle movements of fish or the vibrations created by struggling prey, sharks can pinpoint the location of their next meal.
  4. Communication: While sharks may not have vocal cords and cannot produce vocal sounds, they communicate through alternative means. Body language plays a significant role in shark communication. Swimming patterns, head shaking, and even gentle head-butting are forms of non-vocal communication that sharks employ to convey messages to one another.

Do sharks have vocals?

Contrary to popular belief, sharks cannot produce vocal sounds. Unlike some marine mammals, sharks lack vocal cords, the essential anatomical structures required for vocalization. Instead, sharks rely on non-vocal forms of communication, primarily through body language. Some of the ways sharks communicate without vocals include:

  1. Body Language: Sharks exhibit various body movements to convey messages to each other. Zigzagging swimming patterns, head shaking, and head-butting are among sharks’ repertoire of non-vocal communication behaviors.
  2. Visual Signals: Visual cues, including body postures and movements, play a crucial role in shark communication. These visual signals help sharks establish dominance, communicate during courtship, and convey warnings.


The sonic world of sharks is diverse and intriguing. While some species, like the great white shark, are known for their deep growls and musical notes, others, such as the draughtsboard shark, produce drumming sounds. Orcas, though not sharks, are highly vocal and communicate with various sounds. The bark-producing behavior of the swellshark and draughtsboard shark adds another layer of mystery to shark sounds.

As scientists continue to explore and unravel the mysteries of shark communication, each new discovery adds to our understanding of these fascinating oceanic beings. The variety of sounds produced by different shark species highlights the complexity of their behaviors and interactions within the underwater realm.


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