subclass of fishes

Elasmobranchii is a subclass of Chondrichthyes or cartilaginous fish, that includes the sharks and the rays and skates.

Temporal range: Wenlock–Recent[1]
White shark.jpg
Great white shark
(Carcharodon carcharias)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Elasmobranchii
Bonaparte, 1838
Cetorhinus maximus by greg skomal.JPG
Elasmobranchs lack swim bladders, and maintain buoyancy with oil that they store in their livers. Some deep sea sharks are targeted by fisheries for this liver oil, including the school, gulper and basking sharks (pictured). All three of these species have been assessed by the IUCN as vulnerable due to overfishing.[2][3][4]
Radiation of elasmobranchs, based on Michael Benton, 2005.[5]

From a practical point of view the life-history pattern of elasmobranchs makes this group of animals extremely susceptible to over fishing. It is no coincidence that the commercially exploited marine turtles and baleen whales, which have life-history patterns similar to the sharks, are also in trouble.


Fossilised shark teeth are known from the early Devonian, around 400 million years ago. During the following Carboniferous period, the sharks underwent a period of diversification, with many new forms evolving. Many of these became extinct during the Permian, but the remaining sharks underwent a second burst of adaptive radiation during the Jurassic, around which time the skates and rays first appeared.



  1. Märss, Tiiu; Gagnier, Pierre-Yves (2001). "A new chondrichthyan from the Wenlock, Lower Silurian, of Baillie-Hamilton Island, the Canadian Arctic". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 21 (4): 693–701. doi:10.1671/0272-4634(2001)021[0693:ANCFTW]2.0.CO;2.
  2. Fowler, S.L. (2005). "Cetorhinus maximus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2005: e.T4292A10763893. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2005.RLTS.T4292A10763893.en.
  3. "Galeorhinus galeus (School shark)". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2005-06-17. 2005-06-17. Retrieved 2013-03-26.[permanent dead link]
  4. Guallart; et al. (2006). "Centrophorus granulosus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2006. Retrieved 11 May 2006.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  5. Benton, Michael J. (2015). Vertebrate Palaeontology (3rd ed.). Blackwell. p. 185. ISBN 9781118406847. OCLC 945675149.