Is a Swordfish a Fish or a Shark? [Shark vs Swordfish]

Well, a swordfish is a type of fish that is well-known for its long bill and large size. Plus, its biological structure, behavior, and diet are all similar to what one would expect from a typical fish. Even swordfish belongs to the billfish category, which also includes marlins and sailfish.

But, due to their intimidating shape, swordfish have been the subject of numerous myths and misconceptions. As their name implies, swordfish are often confused with sharks in order to their fierce appearance and predatory tendencies.

This article aims to explore the differences between sharks and swordfish, as well as answer the question of whether it’s a fish or a shark. So, get ready to dive into the fascinating world of marine life and discover the truth about the swordfish.

Is a Swordfish a Fish or a Shark?

Usually, a swordfish is an iconic marine creature, a type of fish, not a shark. The question of whether a swordfish is a fish, or a shark has long perplexed many people in the marine biology community.

So, a closer look at the anatomy, diet, and behavior of a swordfish can help provide a better understanding of the creature’s true identity.


In general, a swordfish is a large marine fish belonging to the Xiphiidae family. It is distinct from both fish and sharks due to its long, flat bill, which it uses to slash and stun its prey.

However, they are highly sought after for their meat, which is considered a delicacy and for sport fishing.

Although related to sharks, swordfish are not actually sharks. They are pelagic fish, meaning they live in the open ocean rather than closer to shore like many species of shark.

Besides, swordfish can be found worldwide in tropical and temperate waters and can grow up to 10 feet in length.

Despite their large size, they are surprisingly agile and able to reach speeds of up to 40 mph while hunting. While they may resemble sharks in certain ways, swordfish are actually more closely related to marlin, tuna and mackerel.

Is a Swordfish Faster Than a Shark?

In general, Swordfish is considered to be the third fastest fish in the ocean and is able to reach speeds of up to 97 km/h. On the other hand, many species of sharks are very fast swimmers, such as the shortfin mako shark, which can swim at speeds of up to 72 km/h.

Usually, swordfish are well-known for their impressive speed and agility, which they use to hunt their prey. It has a long, pointed bill and a streamlined body adapted to its speed, as well as powerful muscles.

Great White Shark

On the contrary, sharks can vary in speed and agility based on a range of factors, such as body shape, size, and a shark’s swimming style.

So, it should be noted that sharks and swordfish can differ in speed based on their kinds and sizes. A smaller shark can reach higher speeds than a larger swordfish, so the size and species of the animals must be taken into consideration when comparing speeds.

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Besides, water temperature, depth, and availability of prey will also affect the specific comparison depending on the species.

However, when comparing their top speeds, studies suggest that the shark’s burst speed gives it the advantage. In the end, much more research needs to be done before we can say for sure which one is faster.

What’s The Difference Between a Swordfish and a Shark?

Actually, the main differences between swordfish and sharks are their physical characteristics and ecological roles. Swordfish are large, predatory fish with long, sword-like bills, while sharks are a diverse group of fish with cartilaginous skeletons, gill slits, and rows of sharp teeth.

However, take a look at the comparison chart, where we’ll go over some of their key features.

Swordfish Vs Shark: Comparison Table

  Characteristics analysis                 Swordfish                  Shark
Scientific nameXiphias gladiusSelachimorpha
SpeciesOnly oneMore than 350 species
AppearanceColors: gray, white, silver, dark gray, white gray.   skin texture- smoothColors: brown, gray to cream, blue, and yellow.   skin texture- rough
LengthUp to 14.9 feetUp to 50 feet
WeightAverage 1430 IbAverage (1500-4000)Ib
Favorite foodFishDolphin, sea lions, squid, mollusks, etc.
HabitatFrom Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean, deep water, shallow coastal area,all over the world’s oceans and deep-sea areas.
ReproductiontionOviparous, women lay eggs between 1 and 29 million at a time.Oviparous and viviparous.
lifespan4-15 yearsUp to 70 years
PreyCrustaceans, fish, squidssmaller fish and invertebrates, sea lions, seals, and marine mammals.
PredatorSailfish, orca, sharks, marlinsKiller whales, Giant octopus.

Key Differences Between Swordfish and Shark

Now, let’s have a deep discussion on these key differences!

1. Characteristics

Swordfish are a species of billfish, which are characterized by their long, flat bills that they use to hunt and stun prey.

Also Read: Do Swordfish Feel Pain? [Explained]

Sharks, on the other hand, are a diverse group of fish that includes over 500 species, all of which are characterized by their sharp, pointed teeth.

2. Weight and Length

The size and weight of swordfish and sharks vary greatly depending on their species. A swordfish can weigh over 1430 pounds and measure up to 4.9 feet in length, which is larger and heavier than most shark species.

There are, however, some shark species that can reach quite large sizes. such as the great white shark, which weighs over 1500 to 4000 pounds and measures over 5o feet long.

3. Appearance

Swordfish have streamlined bodies, large dorsal fins and deeply forked tails. Swordfish are usually dark gray, blue, or brown on their dorsal surface and lighter on their ventral surface.

A shark’s skeleton is cartilaginous, its gill slits are five to seven, and its teeth are numerous. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from small, slender species to large, bulky species like the great white shark. Many species are blue, gray, or brown, but some have distinct patterns or colors.

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4. Diet

Swordfish are apex predators that feed on a variety of fish and squid, as well as smaller fish. They are also known to eat crustaceans and other invertebrates.

However, sharks are also carnivores, but their diets vary widely depending on the species. While some shark species feed mostly on fish and marine mammals, others, such as the basking shark, feed mostly on plankton.

5. Habitat

Swordfish live in warm and temperate waters all over the world’s oceans, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. They prefer deep waters such as 550 meters or 1800 feet. In fact, they can also live in shallower water, like near the surface or around islands far out to sea.

When it comes to sharks, they are found in all of the world’s oceans, from shallow coastal waters to the deep sea (average 2.5-mile depth). Even so, they can inhabit a wide range of environments, including coral reefs, the open ocean, and estuaries.

6. Reproduction

As swordfish reproduce, the female releases up to 2.9 million eggs into the water for the male to fertilize. Because of this, a lot of eggs are laid, and not all of them make it to adulthood.

As opposed to sharks, which reproduce through internal fertilization. The male inserts a clasper into the female’s reproductive tract. This results in the production of fewer but larger and more well-developed offspring

7. Life Span

Swordfish have a relatively short lifespan, typically living for around 4 to 9 years. In fact, female swordfish can grow larger than males and may live slightly longer.

Sharks, on the other hand, have a much wider range of lifespans that vary by species. Some species, like the spiny dogfish, can live for up to 70 years, while others, like the shortfin mako shark, have a lifespan of around 30 years.

Do Shark Predators Eat Swordfish?

The answer is yes! It is true that sharks eat swordfish. Actually, sharks are carnivorous apex predators, and they have been known to consume a variety of prey items, including marine mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates.


And swordfish are one of the many prey species that sharks hunt and consume in the open ocean. There are certain types of sharks that eat swordfish, but their specific species may vary depending on the region and other factors.

For example, there is evidence that great white sharks feed on swordfish in certain regions, such as the waters off the coast of California. Even shark species such as tiger sharks, bull sharks, and mako sharks consume swordfish.

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In fact, as apex predators in the ocean, sharks play a significant role in keeping the ecosystem in balance. They also prey on other fish species, crustaceans, and marine mammals.

Can A Swordfish Kill a Shark or Great White Shark?

Yes, there is evidence that swordfish attack sharks. In 1960, the first recorded incident of sharks being attacked by swordfish occurred. Later in 2016, another incident occurred on a beach in Valencia, Spain. A blue shark was found dead with a swordfish sword embedded in its head.

Great White Shark
Great White Shark

Sharks, including great white sharks, can get hurt or even die from them, but this happens very rarely. In contrast, swordfish do not typically attack large sharks like great white sharks because of their pointed bills. Only a few swordfish have killed sharks, but these occurrences are quite uncommon.

Swordfish typically feed on smaller prey such as squid, octopus, and other fish. It is more likely that a great white shark would be the predator in an encounter with a swordfish than the other way around.

Apart from that, sharks, with their hard skin and powerful jaws, are generally able to deal with threats from other marine animals. Specifically, great white sharks are known as one of the most fearsome predators in the ocean.

Even though a swordfish can injure a shark with its bill, it cannot kill one, particularly a great white shark. They have evolved to be extremely effective hunters and are well-adapted to dealing with other marine threats.

Are Sharks Scared of Swordfish?

Sharks are generally not scared of swordfish. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have any fear when it comes to swordfish. Sharks may be wary of swordfish, as they can be quite aggressive and have a long, sharp bill for slashing and catching prey.


Also, swordfish swim much faster than sharks, so they could potentially outrun them. Moreover, sharks eat smaller fish than swordfish, so they may not be used to taking on their sizes and strength.

Swordfish, however, can pose a threat to sharks, regardless of what they are “frightened” of. Because in the last few years, at least six swordfish attacks have been documented along the Mediterranean coast, killing sharks.

Although a shark is unlikely to be scared of a swordfish, it is possible that it can be more cautious when interacting with this species.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Question

Is a swordfish a mammal or a fish?

A swordfish is a fish, not a mammal. It is a type of billfish and belongs to the Xiphiidae family. As a large, predatory fish, swordfish play an important role in the marine ecosystem. Though they may look like dolphins, they are fundamentally different in biology and behavior.

Do tiger sharks eat swordfish

Is it true that they occasionally eat swordfish? As true apex predators, tiger sharks feed on a variety of prey, including turtles, small sharks, crustaceans, sea snakes, and seabirds. Actually, they do not specifically target swordfish.

 Even though there isn’t any proof for sure, it’s possible that tiger sharks sometimes eat swordfish if they get the chance.

Do great white sharks eat swordfish

Naturally, great white sharks are at the top of the food chain. They feed on a variety of prey, including fish, seals, sea lions, and sea turtles.

However, in fact, in certain areas, great white sharks have been known to feed on swordfish. Furthermore, when great white sharks are in the same area as swordfish, they may take advantage of the opportunity for easy prey.

Last words

We have already established that swordfish are fish, not sharks. Even this can be easily identified based on its physical characteristics and behaviors. In spite of some physical similarities, swordfish and sharks belong to separate groups of fish due to their distinctive features.

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