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Are Sharks Fast Swimmers?

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Sharks are among the biggest predators in the sea, capable of traveling great distances in search of prey and easily outpacing even the fastest human swimmers. Different types of shark naturally move at different speeds, and a shark's "sprinting" speed is far faster than its average rate of travel. Sharks are built to swim efficiently and quickly -- it's no surprise they're the kings of the ocean.

The Fastest Sharks

Not all sharks move around at super speed, but a few varieties have shown a talent for cruising through the water like torpedoes. Mako sharks and blue sharks, for example, are estimated to hit speeds between 22 and 46 miles per hour as they chase prey or move from one location to another. For comparison, the fastest human swimmer clocks in at about 5 miles per hour.

Slower Sharks

Though size isn't necessarily related to overall speed capability, bigger sharks tend to move at a more moderate pace. Whale sharks, which are among the largest living sharks, swim at only 3 miles per hour. Whale sharks do not have to move at high speeds since they are passive feeders who collect food as it comes to them (as baleen whales do) rather than going after fast-moving prey.


Sharks are not only capable of moving quickly through the sea, but can also dive to incredible depths. The Portuguese shark can dive to depths of up to 1.5 miles and is able to withstand the immense amount of atmospheric pressure found deep below the sea. The deepest dive ever completed by a human diver without the aid of a submersible vehicle is 318.25 meters -- less than a quarter of a mile.

Average Speed

Some sharks are fast and some sharks are slow, but the great majority cruise at very low speeds. While great whites, blues, and makos are capable of a great speed burst, most sharks swim at around 1.5 miles per hour when they're not actively chasing prey or attempting to escape from a dangerous situation. This speed falls about in line with the average human swim speed, which is between 1 and 2 miles per hour.