We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

The Unique Traits and Behaviors of the Stunning Blue Shark

Blue sharks are one of the most widely distributed shark species, known for their distinctive blue coloration. Learn more about their habitat, diet, behavior and their conservation status.

By Monica Cull
Jul 27, 2023 1:00 PM
Blue shark up close


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

This story was originally published on August 4, 2022.

A snorkeler off the coast of Cornwall recently experienced a minor bite in the leg from a blue shark while with the tour group, Blue Shark Snorkel.

These cases are extremely rare, but they can happen, even in the U.K. The victim could walk off of the rescue boat, according to the BBC, and stated, "I don't for a second want this freak event to tarnish the reputation of an already persecuted species.”

The blue shark could be the most wide-ranging shark species on the globe, migrating to temperate and warmer waters all year round. If you're curious about the blue shark, here are some things you need to know.

A Shark with a Slender Frame

Blue sharks get their name because they are, well, blue. Sometimes referred to as the great blue shark, they have a slender frame and a protruding cone-shaped snout. Their dorsal fin is set further down its back, closer to the tail, and it has two long, curved pectoral fins on the side of its body.

They have large, bulbous eyes, but unlike most sharks, the blue shark doesn’t have spiracles — small openings between the eye and ear that help ventilate the gills. 

Read more: What Can Shark Brains Tell Us About Their Fascinating Intelligence and Behaviors?

Where Do Blue Sharks Live?

(Credit: Samy Kassem/Shutterstock)

Blue sharks are pelagic, meaning they mostly live in the open ocean away from the shore, coast and bottom. Because they prefer temperate waters, you’ll most likely find sharks closer to the surface and typically no more than 1,100 feet below the waves.

Blue sharks are frequent migrators. They may use their pectoral fins to glide with ocean currents and conserve energy. Some blue sharks will migrate nearly 6,000 miles each year. 

What Do Blue Sharks Eat?

They typically migrate north with ocean currents during the summer as the waters warm. In those waters, they can find more abundant food sources.

Blue sharks feed on a wide range of fish species. They eat mostly pelagic fish (cod and herring) and squid. They also eat cephalopods like cuttlefish and octopus when they have the opportunity.

Blue sharks are known to exhibit nocturnal feeding behavior, which means they are more active and tend to feed more actively during the night. But they are also known to eat during the day.

Read more: Why Do Sharks Attack Humans?

They Don’t Often Intermingle 


Besides food sources, blue sharks will travel long distances to find potential mates. Male sharks often bite female sharks during mating. Though they have thicker skin, the females still can have bite scars. Mating season is perhaps the only time you’ll see adult male and female blue sharks together.

Besides gender, they also segregate into groups based on age and reproduction status. According to the Shark Research Institute: Juveniles, sub-adults, mature sharks and pregnant females are typically found in different areas. A female can have as many as 135 pups, though it’s typically around the 15 to 30 range. They will have their pups offshore.

Read More: Demon Shark Found Deep Off the Coast of Australia

Are Blue Sharks Endangered?

Blue sharks often end up as bycatch from commercial fishing vessels. Though some are released back into the water, many die from shock and stress. While their meat isn’t valuable to fish markets, their fins are.

Poachers will often remove the shark's fins and throw the body back into the water. The shark fins are then sold for shark fin soup, or as decorative pieces for the home. Blue sharks are especially sought out because of their beautiful color. Blue sharks, along with other marine life, are victims of overfishing and bycatch that have caused their numbers to dwindle.

Read more: Almost 20 Million Years Ago, Sharks Nearly Went Extinct

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.