Skin To Scales: Do Sharks Have Scales?

do sharks have scales

Sharks can be found in all five of the world’s oceans, from the shallow coastal waters to the deepest and darkest areas of have rarely been explored.

These predatory animals are known for their fierce nature and incredible hunting skills which allow them to take on all sorts of prey.

The shortfin Mako shark is the fastest shark on the planet. Know to be powerful, this shark can reach speeds of up to 46mph in short bursts.

This is largely due to the aerodynamic build of this shark, as well as denticles, similar to scales which help to keep the shark streamlined whilst moving at speed.

Do sharks have scales?

In short, yes they do, however, they are not like the scales you would find on other fish. Sharks have small toothlike structures called ‘dermal denticles’ which help them swim faster in the water by reducing drag.

Do Sharks Really Have Scales?

Shark scales are not like the scales that are found on fish and other marine animals. Instead, shark skin is covered in V-shaped scales known as dermal denticles.

These more closely resemble teeth than fish scales and they help to reduce drag in the water which allows sharks to swim at incredible speeds in the water by reducing drag.

Sharks, rays, and skates all have dermal denticles that allow these animals to also swim silently through the water, allowing them to creep up on their prey and remain in stealth mode.

Dermal denticles are also used as a sort of body armor that protects sharks from other predators, although they have very few naturally in the wild.

These “scales” are made from keratin which is the same material found in our fingernails, hair, and skin.

Why Do Sharks Have Scales?

There are three main reasons why sharks have scales. I’ve listed these reasons below and gone into further detail as to why sharks have scales


The first is a form of protection from other sharks, killer whales, and ectoparasites.

Sharks have two sizes of scales on their bodies with smaller, thinner scales near the gills and on their fins, then they have larger, thicker scales on the rest of their bodies.

Researchers found that some marine species such as small-spotted catfish will even curl up in a ball and use these scales as a protective shell when threatened.

Dermal denticles protect sharks from parasites, cuts, scratches, and minor wounds that otherwise could cause them harm and infection.

Reduce Drag

The second reason sharks have scales is to reduce drag in the water whilst they are swimming. They provide sharks with the ability to swim fast in the water which is essential to helping them hunt prey.

Shark scales are so effective in reducing drag that their design has been replicated to make swimsuits for Olympic swimmers in hopes to cut down on swim times, and it’s worked.

Engineers are also trying new ways to replicate shark scale patterns to use on boats and aircraft with the goal of them becoming more fuel-efficient.

It really goes to show that nature knows best and we can learn a lot about the design and efficiencies of animals in our oceans that can help us, humans, in all areas of our lives.


Finally, the unique scale design of placoid scales helps sharks to swim quieter which allows them to sneak up on prey and enter a sort of stealth mode when required.

Sharks typically hunt by identifying prey on or near the surface whilst swimming below. Once their target is identified they lock onto it and burst up from the depths to strike.

It’s an incredible tactic used by many species of shark, including the notorious great white shark when hunting seals.

They will burst up from the depths and oftentimes leap out of the water several feet in a display that is incredible to witness.

Do Sharks Have Placoid Scales?

Placoid scales are spiny, toothlike projections that are only found in cartilaginous fishes as well as sharks, rays, and skates.

Yes, sharks do have placoid scales which are found all over their body aside from their eyelids and inside of their mouth.

These scales are covered in a hard-enamel-like substance known as ganoin and allow the shark several benefits including protection, stealth, and speed.

Do Sharks Have Rough Scales?

To the human touch, shark scales feel like sandpaper, they point toward the tail and would feel very smooth if you rubbed a shark from head to toe, but rough if you rubbed in the other direction.

These scales are tough enough to cut human skin. They are made from a hard material that protects the shark and has a rough feel to them.

However, that’s not something most of us need to concern ourselves with as we will likely never get close enough to stroke a shark.

Do Great White Sharks Have Scales?

Yes, great white sharks also have placoid scales which assists them in being one of the top apex predators in our oceans.

They are naturally stealth hunters and their scales help them with this. Great white shark skin is covered in these tiny V-shape scales which offer them many benefits.

Final Thoughts

So, do sharks have scales? Yes, they have dermal denticles which are essentially small, tooth-like structures that have a number of benefits to sharks in the ocean.

Protection, reducing drag and silent swimming are all some of the benefits of shark scales, allowing them to be some of the top predators on the planet.

Dermal denticles are made from a hard enamel-like material that protects the shark from ectoparasites and allows some sharks to swim at impressive speeds of up to 46mph.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you’ve learned something new today about shark scales and their use.

Feel free to stick around to learn more about sharks and many other types of marine wildlife.