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Is A Swordfish A Shark

Is A Swordfish A Shark

Swordfish and Sharks are two iconic marine predators, but they are very different creatures. Swordfish are not sharks, though they share some similarities that lead to confusion between the species.

Swordfish vs Shark: Key Differences

Here are the main ways that swordfish and sharks differ:

Species1 (Xiphias gladius)Over 500 species
Body typeElongated, rounded billStreamlined, torpedo-shaped
TeethNo teeth as adultsMultiple rows of serrated teeth
SizeUp to 14 ft, 1000+ lbsVaries greatly by species
HabitatOpen oceanCoastal, deep sea, coral reefs
DietFish, squid, crustaceansVaries by species
HuntingSlash with billBite with teeth
Speed60+ mphVaries by species
  • Species: Swordfish belong to the billfish family Xiphiidae, while sharks belong to the elasmobranch group (which includes rays). There are over 500 shark species but only 1 swordfish species.
  • Appearance: Swordfish have a distinctive elongated, round bill and a large dorsal fin. Sharks have a streamlined, torpedo-shaped body and multiple rows of serrated teeth.
  • Size: Swordfish grow up to 14 feet long and can weigh over 1000 lbs. Great white sharks reach over 20 feet and 5000 lbs. But many shark species are much smaller.
  • Habitat: Swordfish inhabit the open ocean waters of tropical and temperate zones. Sharks live in diverse aquatic habitats from shallow coastal regions to the deep sea.
  • Hunting: Swordfish slash at prey with their bill. Sharks grab prey with their sharp teeth and powerful jaws.
  • Diet: Swordfish eat fish, squid, and crustaceans. Shark diets range widely by species from fish to seals and even plankton.
  • Speed: Swordfish reach speeds over 60 mph. Some sharks like makos can swim over 60 mph but most sharks are slower.

So while swordfish and some sharks share large size, speed, and predatory habits, they belong to very different taxonomic groups with distinct anatomies and behaviors.

Can a Swordfish Kill a Shark?

Yes, there is evidence that swordfish can attack and even kill sharks in rare instances:

  • Swordfish bills have been found impaled in dead shark bodies, indicating they inflicted fatal injuries.
  • The first documented case was in 1960, with other verified incidents since, usually in the Mediterranean as prey declines.
  • Sharks are not immune to swordfish despite their tough skin – the bills can penetrate their bodies.
  • Swordfish tend to go after smaller shark species like blue sharks but avoid larger sharks.
  • Great white sharks in particular prey on swordfish as the apex ocean predators. Their size and strength gives them the advantage in most encounters.

So while sharks can be threatened by swordfish bills, such attacks are uncommon. Sharks are well-adapted as predators to handle strikes from other marine animals.

Swordfish Attacks on Sharks

First scientifically documented case was in 1960, additional cases since then
Most attacks involved blue sharks and mako sharks
Some attacks may be defensive responses by juvenile swordfish
Adult swordfish have attacked larger sharks like threshers
Swordfish bills can inflict deadly injuries on sharks
Attacks increasing in Mediterranean as populations decline

Swordfish and Shark Interactions

Though they may compete for prey, swordfish and sharks generally avoid encounters with each other:

  • As large solitary predators, they inhabit overlapping niches but different zones of the oceans. Direct conflict is rare.
  • Sharks do prey on swordfish, especially younger ones, but adult swordfish have few predators except orcas.
  • Shortfin mako sharks are known to hunt swordfish, using speed and agility to overpower them.
  • Tiger sharks, bull sharks, and great whites also consume swordfish when the opportunity arises.
  • Swordfish use their speed and bills to defend themselves against most shark attacks.
  • Declining prey like tuna may force sharks and swordfish to compete more fiercely in some regions.

So while swordfish can kill sharks in unusual cases, they coexist as apex predators in a balance maintained through fear, avoidance and mutual predation. Disruption of ocean ecosystems by overfishing is the main threat to both species.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a swordfish a mammal or fish?

Swordfish are fish, not mammals. They belong to the billfish family Xiphiidae and have gills, fins and other features of bony marine fish.

Do tiger sharks eat swordfish?

Yes, tiger sharks are opportunistic predators that will eat swordfish on occasion as part of their varied diet. But they do not specifically target adult swordfish.

Do great white sharks eat swordfish?

Yes, great whites do feed on swordfish when they share the same habitats. But swordfish are just one of many prey items great whites consume including seals, sea lions and other fish.


While swordfish and some sharks share large size and predatory habits, they belong to very different families of fish with distinct anatomies, behaviors and habitats. Though swordfish can injure sharks with their bills on rare occasions, the two species mostly avoid direct conflict as they hunt different prey. Maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems is key to the continued coexistence of these iconic marine giants.

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Steve Momot

Steve is an accomplished professional photographer and marketer who specializes in the Fishing, Yacht, and Boating industry. With a strong presence as an influencer and marketing expert in the Marine Industry, he has made a significant impact in the field. Additionally, Steve is the original creator and co-founder of Sportfishtrader. Prior to his career as a marine photographer, he gained extensive experience as a licensed boat and car dealer in South Florida.

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