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11 Amazing Sharks You Should Get to Know Better

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by David Shiffman

David Shiffman is a Ph.D. student at the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, where his research focuses on shark behavior, ecology, and conservation. Make him feel welcome!

Quick—think of a shark!

What did it look like? Most people are only familiar with the sharks that make the news for biting people: animals like the bull shark, tiger shark, or the great white made infamous by Jaws. SCUBA divers, fishermen, or avid watchers of Shark Week might be able to name a few more species. But did you know that there are actually more than 1,200 species of chondrichthyan (sharks and their skate, ray, and chimaera relatives)?

Sharks live in habitats as diverse as coral reefs, the Arctic, and the deep sea, and come in an impressive variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Here are 11 of my favorite amazing sharks, a collection that showcases the incredible diversity of these animals. What’s your favorite shark? Let me know in the comments below!

1. Velvet belly lantern shark (Etmopterus spinax)

A related lantern shark, Etmopterus fusus, from Last et al. 2002

The glow of a lantern shark from below (from Claes and Mallefet 2010)

These deep sea sharks are best known for their ability to glow in the dark, an ability that they are believed to use for signaling one another during mating. A glowing belly helps them camouflage themselves, as any potential predator swimming below them will see the same levels of light that would naturally reach that depth, and not a shadow that could give away their location. There are several species of lantern shark, and each has a distinctive pattern of bioluminescent light.

2. Megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios)

Megamouth shark, from a 1990 National Marine Fisheries Service technical report

These sharks, whose awesome scientific name means “giant mouth of the deep,” were first discovered in 1976, when a heavy anchor from a U.S. Navy vessel hit one. If the anchor had been deployed fifteen seconds earlier or later, this species wouldn’t have been discovered for another eight years, and to date fewer than 50 sightings have been confirmed worldwide. Megamouths, whale sharks, and basking sharks are the only three known large filter feeding sharks, but megamouths do it a little differently. Their large mouth and unique muscle morphology suggests that these sharks may be the only fish to engage in a behavior known as “engulfing,” best known from humpback whales.

3. Atlantic sharpnose sharks (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae)

Atlantic sharpnose pups (pictured with the author during an unfortunate beard-growing contest)

While sharks are often portrayed as huge superpredators, many are actually quite small. When they're pups, Atlantic sharpnose can easily fit into one hand (see photo). These sharks are often found close to shore along beaches and estuaries during the summer, and migrate to deeper offshore waters during the winter. My favorite thing about sharpnoses is their attitude—even though they’re tiny, they’re often caught when they try to eat bait that’s bigger than they are. Though few people have heard of them (they’re often incorrectly referred to by recreational fishermen as “baby blacktips”), they are extremely common in coastal U.S. waters.

4. Sixgill sawshark (Pilotrema warreni)

A related sawshark species, Wikimedia commons

Sixgill sawsharks are endemic (native to and not found anywhere else) to coastal waters off of Southern Africa, from about Cape Town to southern Mozambique, where they live on the seafloor. Sixgill sawsharks got their clever name from the fact that they have six gill slits, atypical for sharks which normally have five. Oh, I suppose the other part of their name also comes from the GIANT SAW STICKING OUT OF THEIR FACE. Like the sawfishes, sawsharks have an elongated rostrum (snout) covered with sawlike teeth, which they use to stun and impale fishes by swinging it rapidly side to side. Additionally, a pair of sensitive barbels (fleshy whiskers) is also found on the rostrum of sawsharks, which helps them locate buried prey.

5. Goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)

Goblin shark, Wikimedia commons

In addition to the unique shape of its head and its round fins, these sharks are noteworthy because of their coloration. Goblin sharks can be bubblegum pink, making them simultaneously one of the ugliest shark species and one of the cutest. They are typically considered to be solitary animals, though a large group of juvenile males was caught off the coast of Taiwan following an undersea earthquake in 2003. They usually live in the deep sea, but at least one has been documented swimming in shallow waters near Japan.

6. Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus)

Greenland shark, From MacNeil et al. 2012

The Greenland shark, also known as the Sleeper shark because of its relatively sluggish swimming behavior, inhabits the cold waters of the Arctic. Greenland sharks are the largest fish in the Arctic, with the biggest reported individual measuring in at over 23 feet in length. Long believed to be scavengers, Greenland sharks may actually be the Arctic’s top predator, as new evidence suggests that they can catch and eat seals, reindeer, and even polar bears! These sharks are also known for a peculiar parasite that is often found dangling from their eye, which is responsible for the single weirdest question I ever got during one of my public education talks (someone asked how the sharks train the parasites to sit in their eye socket.)

The Trouble With Sharks

These species of sharks are unique and fascinating, but sharks as a group are in deep trouble. According to the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, 17% of all known chondrichthyan species (and 1/3 of all open ocean chondrichthyan species) are Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered.

Scientists have reported population declines in some shark species of 90% or more in the last few decades in areas where sharks used to be abundant.

To learn more about the threats facing sharks and how you can help, please follow @WhySharksMatter on Twitter.

7. Cookie-cutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis)

Cookie cutter shark, Wikimedia commons

Cookie-cutters have a bizarre feeding behavior known as “ecto-parasitic predation” that’s unique among shark species. Basically, this means that they take relatively small circular bites out of the sides of their prey rather than consuming it. These bites have been documented in swordfish, tuna, whales and dolphins, the outer rubber-like hulls of submarines, and, in one case, a human. The only person who has been bitten was in the process of swimming across a deep ocean trench between two islands, at night, while being lit from above by powerful searchlights mounted on a boat.

People often ask me what they can do to reduce the chances of being bitten by a shark, so there you have it—don’t do that.

8. Common thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus)

Common thresher shark, Wikimedia commons

Thresher sharks are known for the extremely long upper lobe of their caudal fins, which can be almost as long as the rest of the animal. These tails are used to stun schools of small bait fish like anchovies or sardines, which make up the majority of the diet of threshers. Thresher sharks are also noteworthy from a physiological perspective because of the presence of an endothermic organ that helps keep their brains and eyes warmer than the surrounding cold waters in which they live. I suspect that, like most other highly evolved creatures, thresher sharks keep the rest of their body warm through the use of a Snuggie.

9. Pacific angel shark, (Squatina californica)

Pacific angel shark, Wikimedia commons

Angel sharks are some of the only ambush predators in the shark world. Rather than actively chasing their prey, these flattened sharks lie in wait partially buried under the sediment and strike when something swims close enough to their mouth. Some angel sharks have been documented waiting in the same spot for several days until food comes along, a behavior I have been known to engage in from time to time. These sharks are one of the few species targeted for their meat, and were at one point the most commonly caught shark in California.

10. Spotted wobbegong, (Orectolobus maculatus)

Wobbegong, Wikimedia commons

In addition to having a delightful name (which means “beard” in the language of Aboriginal Australians), wobbegongs are bottom-dwellers which often rest under coral ledges or rocks during the day. These sharks are sometimes sold as “fish and chips” in their native Australia, and they are also sometimes killed for their uniquely colored skin (which is made into leather). Wobbegongs are noteworthy for being one of the few species of sharks which have been observed being eaten by seals.

11. Spinner shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna)

Spinner shark, UN FAO

These sharks are named for their incredible acrobatic feats—they often jump out of the water while (you guessed it) spinning. This behavior is the end result of swimming towards schools of prey from below at high speeds. The easiest way to tell a spinner shark from the similar-looking blacktip shark is by counting the number of fins which have black tips on them. Believe it or not, spinner sharks have one more fin with black tips than blacktips do—the anal fin.

David Shiffman is a Ph.D. student at the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, where his research focuses on shark behavior, ecology, and conservation. When he isn’t in the field, where he has interacted with more than 2,500 sharks to date, David is actively involved in educating the public about these incredible and misunderstood predators.

He writes about sharks for SouthernFriedScience.com, talks about shark conservation on Twitter (@WhySharksMatter), and gives public education presentations to schools and community groups. Additionally, the lab where David works, the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation program (RJD.Miami.edu), has taken thousands of high school students into the field to learn about sharks and participate in their long-term shark research projects. If you and your company, school group, or club are interested in joining them for a shark tagging trip, let him know! He’s also happy to answer any questions that you have about sharks.

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Lucy Quintanilla/Mental Floss
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geography
The Funniest Town Name in All 50 States
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Lucy Quintanilla/Mental Floss

You can send your Christmas wish list to Santa Claus, Indiana, or get a refill in Hot Coffee, Mississippi. Whether honoring its founders, a local landmark, or its reputation for rowdy bar-brawling, the funniest town names in all 50 states show a sense of humor and personality.

1. ALABAMA // SCREAMER

Screamer, an unincorporated community in southeastern Alabama, has a noisy history. According to a local historian, the name may have two origins. In one version of the story, it comes from the fact that 19th century Native Americans used to loudly heckle white train travelers as they passed by what was then a reservation. The "screaming" could have also referred to the din made by local bears, panthers, and wildcats.

2. ALASKA // UNALASKA

unalaska, alaska
Weston Renoud, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Don’t let the name fool you; Unalaska is as Alaskan as it comes. With a little more than 4500 residents, Unalaska is the largest city in the Aleutian Islands. Originally, Unangan residents named it Agunalaksh, a word that means "near the peninsula." As Russian fur traders arrived, the spelling morphed into Ounalashka, which eventually became Unalaska.

3. ARIZONA // WHY

Why call a town "Why?" This teeny-tiny community near the U.S.-Mexico border is named after the Y-shaped intersection of two nearby highways. But because of an Arizona law requiring place names have at least three letters, "Y" became the much more existential "Why."

4. ARKANSAS // SMACKOVER

This town of 1800 people in southern Arkansas, at one point one of the nation’s biggest oil producers, was settled by French trappers in the early 19th century. The name Smackover may have come from the French name for the local creek, Chemin Couvert, which means "covered way"—and "sumac couvert" means a covering of sumac trees, a local plant. Alternate theories trace the name back to the legend of oil streaming "smack over the derrick" or a settler jumping "smack over the creek," according to the state’s website.

5. CALIFORNIA // ROUGH AND READY

rough n ready california
Isaac Crumm, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The early residents of Rough and Ready, California, were prepared to get down and dirty for their independence. Named after a mining company with the same moniker, the town—with a current population of about 1581—was the first to secede from the Union and become its own “republic” in 1850 as a protest against mining taxes, prohibition mandates, and laws that weren’t enforced. Though their rebellion was laughably short-lived (the town rejoined the United States three months later), its residents still pay homage to Rough and Ready’s spirited past with a celebration on the last Saturday in June.

6. COLORADO // NO NAME

What started out as a temporary solution has become a point of pride for locals (currently fewer than 200 in number) in No Name, Colorado. According to reports, a government official first marked a newly constructed exit off I-70 with a sign reading “No Name” as a placeholder. By the time officials got around to officially labeling it, “No Name” had the support of the community and it stuck. Visitors can find the spot near the No Name tunnels, No Name Creek, and the No Name hiking trail.

7. CONNECTICUT // HAZARDVILLE

Hazardville, Connecticut, began as a 19th-century industrial village that made gunpowder. Thankfully, that’s not how it got its moniker: The town was named after Colonel Augustus George Hazard, who purchased and expanded the company in 1837.

8. DELAWARE // CORNER KETCH

It’s rumored that Corner Ketch—an unincorporated community in New Castle County, Delaware—got its name from a rough-and-tumble local bar, whose patrons were so quarrelsome that townspeople would warn strangers, "They'll ketch ye at the corner."

9. FLORIDA // TWO EGG

Two Egg, Florida, got its name during the Great Depression. According to local lore, two young boys were so strapped for cash that they paid a local shopkeeper for sugar by giving them two eggs. These make-do business transactions occurred so regularly that patrons began referring to the establishment as a “two egg store.” Eventually, the name caught on with traveling salesmen, who spread it to other towns.

10. GEORGIA // CLIMAX

Founded in the 1880s, the tiny town of Climax, Georgia, got its name from its location: It sits at the highest point on the railroad between Savannah and the Chattahoochee River.

11. HAWAII // VOLCANO

A cozy little burg near Hilo, Volcano is adjacent to several volcano hot spots. (Sorry.) You can walk the dormant Kilauea Iki Trail, the site of a 1959 eruption, and then stop by the Lava Rock Café for a coffee before heading to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

12. IDAHO // SLICKPOO

Near Culdesac, Idaho, sits the multiple-house assembly of Slickpoo, a slice of real estate that may barely qualify as a town but was once a bustling village. Originally the site of a Catholic mission, it was said to have been gifted to the missionaries by landowner Josiah Slickpoo.

13. ILLINOIS // SANDWICH

No, it’s not named after the cold-cut concoction. Originally called Almon after land developer Almon Cage when it was founded in 1855, Sandwich got its name when a train stop liaison named it after his hometown of Sandwich, New Hampshire. It still capitalizes on the connotation, though: The town holds a Sandwich Festival annually.

14. INDIANA // SANTA CLAUS

santa claus indiana
Doug Kerr, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

It feels like Christmas every day in Santa Claus, Indiana. But the origin of the name wasn’t quite so festive. As the story goes, the town was first named Santa Fe. In 1896, when the town wanted to secure a post office, postal officials told it to pick another name since Santa Fe was already taken. Someone thought Santa Claus was an acceptable alternative, and the post office agreed. To their dismay, children began mailing letters to Santa Claus, Indiana, with regularity.

15. IOWA // WHAT CHEER

A former coal mining town in the southeast of the state, What Cheer was christened Petersburg by Peter Britton, who settled here in the 1850s. But enterprising shop owner Joseph Andrews, who created the town post office, suggested calling it What Cheer, possibly after an old English greeting. Britton protested, but the name stuck. Today What Cheer has about 600 residents—down from a peak of 5000—and hosts a seasonal flea market and musical events at its opera house.

16. KANSAS // GAS

The wags in Gas know what you're thinking. "You just passed Gas." "Gas Kan." "Get Gas!" The jokes write themselves. Gas got its name when, no surprise, natural gas was discovered in the area in 1898. Farmer E.K. Taylor promptly sold 60 acres of his land to industrial interests and subdivided the rest into lots, laying the groundwork for Gas (a.k.a. Gas City). Today it's home to around 600 people.

17. KENTUCKY // BUGTUSSLE

bugtussle kentucky
Brian Stansberry, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

The name of this tiny hamlet on the Kentucky-Tennessee border is an homage to, you guessed it, the local bug population. The town’s oldest residents say that when workers helped out during the harvest, they would sleep in barns—on hay that was infested with doodlebugs. Legend has it that the workers stayed so long that the bugs grew big enough to “tussle” for the prime napping spots.

18. LOUISIANA // UNEEDUS

The Lake Superior Piling Company established a settlement of model farms here in the 1920s, bringing prosperity to this corner of rural Louisiana. The company’s owners tweaked their corporate slogan, “you need us,” into the town’s new name—and apparently, the feeling was mutual. Residents allegedly founded another model farm community nearby and dubbed it Weneedu.

19. MAINE // BURNT PORCUPINE

It’s easy to imagine where this island off the coast of Maine got its unusual name—just squint at it. Located near Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, Burnt Porcupine has nearby sister islands with equally intriguing names: Bald Porcupine, Long Porcupine, and Sheep Porcupine.

20. MARYLAND // BORING

The village of Boring could have avoided all of the jokes if they had just stuck with the town’s original name—Fairview. But there are a lot of other Fairviews in the U.S., so when a post office was established in the village in 1880, the postal service requested a rename. Residents voted to honor their first postmaster, David J. Boring—and he surely thought the recognition was anything but.

21. MASSACHUSETTS // BELCHERTOWN

While we had hoped that Belchertown was named for the aftermath of a particularly tasty meal, the real story is a bit less delicious: It’s named after Jonathan Belcher, a colonial governor of Massachusetts.

22. MICHIGAN // HELL

Yes, there is a Hell on Earth, and it’s 15 miles northwest of Ann Arbor. There are several stories floating around about how this name came to be, but the one the town itself declares official is this: In the 1830s, the town settler, George Reeves, made a deal with local farmers to trade his homemade whiskey for the grain they grew. When the farmer’s wives knew their husbands were off dealing with Reeves, they were known to remark, “He’s gone to hell again.” The name stuck.

23. MINNESOTA // NIMROD

Nimrod Minnesota
Lorie Shaull, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s a pretty exclusive group of Minnesotans who can lay claim to being an official Nimrod: just 69 at last count. Though the town takes up just one square mile of the Gopher State, it’s got one big claim to fame: It’s the hometown of Dick Stigman, a pro baseball player who pitched for the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, and Boston Red Sox in the 1960s. As for the name itself, it’s a Biblical reference. In the book of Genesis, Nimrod is described as “a mighty hunter before the Lord” and is credited with overseeing the construction of the Tower of Babel.

24. MISSISSIPPI // HOT COFFEE

Back in the horse-and-carriage days, the spot where the town of Hot Coffee, Mississippi, now sits marked the midpoint between Natchez, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama—two popular travel destinations. In the late 1800s an inn was erected and, recognizing a good business opportunity when he saw one, a man named L.N. Davis built a store to replenish the supplies of weary travelers and hung a coffee pot outside, which advertised "the best hot coffee around.” His secret? He used spring water to brew New Orleans beans, then sweetened the drink with molasses drippings. Though the store is no longer there, Davis’s java made enough of an impression to become the town’s namesake.

25. MISSOURI // TIGHTWAD

Most legends surrounding the town’s name tend to trace it to a postmaster who was upset with a cheapskate watermelon farmer who sold a promised melon out from under him for an extra 50-cent profit. But these days, the main draw to this tiny town in central Missouri is its bank—customers from all over the country open accounts here just to be able to send checks with the Tightwad logo on them.

26. MONTANA // PRAY

While it’s true that you’ll likely spend more time staring at the heavens while in Big Sky Country, the town of Pray, Montana, wasn’t named as a religious suggestion. Founded in 1907, it was named for then-state representative Charles Nelson Pray.

27. NEBRASKA // MAGNET

magnet, NE
z2amiller, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

After mapping out a town in northeast Nebraska, settler B.E. Smith was tasked with naming it. He wanted an attractive name for the community that would draw visitors across its borders, so he christened it Magnet in 1893. Today the locale is home to about 75 residents.

28. NEVADA // JIGGS

About 30 miles south of Elko, Nevada, sits the small town of Jiggs. In 1918, businessman Albert Hankins owned the local hotel, dance hall, and general store—which basically meant he owned the whole town. Looking for a new name for the place, he took a suggestion from his kids. “Jiggs” was the top hat-wearing, Irish-American protagonist of their favorite comic strip Bringing Up Father. Following the name change, the women’s organization in town dubbed itself Maggie’s Club after the character’s wife.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // SANDWICH

The Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montague, did more than invent a lunchtime staple. In 1763, he chartered a town between the Lakes Region and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. And just like the edible kind of sandwich, the town of Sandwich was named after him. The earl also lent his title to the nearby Sandwich mountain range and Sandwich dome.

30. NEW JERSEY // LOVELADIES

loveladies new jersey
Lauren Spinelli

The town of Loveladies, New Jersey, was actually named after a man, not a group of women. Located on Long Beach Island, it got its start as one of the life-saving stations that appeared on the Jersey shore in the 1870s. The station borrowed its name from a nearby island owned by Thomas Lovelady, a local hunter and sportsman. When the community grew into a town it tested out several new titles, including Club House and Long Beach Park. In 1952, the early name of Loveladies became official.

31. NEW MEXICO // CANDY KITCHEN

Sandwiched between Zuni and Navajo reservations in western New Mexico, Candy Kitchen Ranch purportedly got its name when a local moonshine distiller needed a front to hide his illicit operations during Prohibition. To secure the sugar necessary to concoct barrels of hooch, the moonshiner established a confectionery that produced pinion nut candy on the side. Candy Kitchen isn’t the only sweet-toothed locale in this neck of rural New Mexico, either: 85 miles down the dusty trail sits a place called Pie Town!

32. NEW YORK // NEVERSINK

The old town of Neversink is currently sunk under about 175 feet of water. Named for the Neversink River, the longest tributary of the Delaware River, the city of 2000 was one of the unlucky Catskill towns flooded in the 1950s to create reservoirs that would provide water to New York City. Luckily, the town relocated in the 1950s shortly after its old Main Street was sunk for good. Not all neighboring locales were so fortunate, though. The flooding forced locals to give a bittersweet goodbye to the now-underwater town of … Bittersweet.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // WHYNOT

whynot, north carolina

Around 1860, residents living in the fertile heart of central North Carolina had no name for their home. But when the United States Post Office planned to put down roots in the area, the townspeople convened to decide on a name. Debate ensued: Why not name it this? Why not name it that? The discussion dragged on until one frustrated local butted in and said, “Why not name the town Why Not and let’s go home?” Ambivalence won the day.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // CANNON BALL

Cannon Ball, North Dakota gets its name not from a battle, but from geological curiosities called concretions. Millions of years ago, sediment naturally cemented around plants or shells in the Peace Garden State and hardened into rock, forming unusually perfect spheres that—you guessed it—resemble cannonballs. While these round rocks dot the local Cannonball River, you can ogle at more if you drive 170 miles west to the northern stretches of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

35. OHIO // KNOCKEMSTIFF

Though nobody can quite pinpoint when the town of Knockemstiff acquired its odd name, they can at least agree that it certainly earned it. Most of the stories about the area’s early days, before it got its foreboding name, involve bar brawls, moonshine, and other types of delinquency. The most famous origin tale, though, centers on the advice of a preacher. When approached by a woman asking him how to keep her cheating husband home and faithful, the preacher responded simply: “Knock ‘em stiff.” Take that advice however you want. The town received mainstream attention in 2008 when author Donald Ray Pollock, a native of Knockemstiff, published a book of 18 short stories that shine a gritty light on life in this rough Midwestern community.

36. OKLAHOMA // GENE AUTRY

The community formerly known as Berwyn, Oklahoma, took on the name of the famous singing cowboy after the man himself came to town and purchased a 1200-acre ranch that he would turn into the headquarters of his Flying A Ranch Rodeo. A few years after the purchase, Cecil Crosby, the deputy sheriff of Carter County, where Berwyn was located, suggested the town change its name to honor Autry. The town’s 227 residents all signed a petition in favor of the change, with the post office and railroad agreeing to alter their names soon after. On November 16, 1941, the town of Berwyn officially became Gene Autry, Oklahoma. Though Autry sold the Flying A Ranch after World War II, the town that bears his name still recognizes the late cowboy actor with a museum and film festival in his honor.

37. OREGON // ZIGZAG

The unincorporated community of Zigzag, Oregon, is a scenic spot that rests in the middle of Mount Hood National Forest. The community itself is named after the Zigzag River, which drains from the Zigzag Glacier. Though the history of the name is unknown, it might be traced back to Joel Palmer, a pioneer of the Oregon territory, who described the erratic movements needed to descend through a ravine near Mount Hood: “The manner of descending is to turn directly to the right, go zigzag for about one hundred yards, then turn short round, and go zigzag until you come under the place where you started from; then to the right, and so on, until you reach the bottom.” Though it was used to describe one particular ravine, the name stuck, and it eventually morphed into becoming a local community. In addition to a town, river, and glacier, Zigzag also lends its name to a volcanic mountain and canyon.

38. PENNSYLVANIA // INTERCOURSE

Ken Lund, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, village of Intercourse knows what you’re thinking. “It’s okay, you can giggle!” the village’s website says. “We’re happy with our name. It’s the perfect conversation starter.” Just how did the town come by its unusual moniker, which it adopted in 1814? There are several possibilities. According to one theory, the name came from the fact that the town—which was originally called Cross Keys after a local tavern when it was founded in 1754—was at the intersection of two major roads. Another theory posits that the name is an evolution from “Entercourse” because, at the time, the town was located next to the entrance of a racetrack. The final theory revolves around the original meaning of the word intercourse: “connection or dealings between persons or groups; exchange especially of thoughts or feelings.” The sexual meaning of the word intercourse didn’t come into popular use until the late 18th century. Intercourse isn’t the only Pennsylvania town name likely to delight 12-year-olds: Less than 20 minutes up the road is the town Blue Ball. It was named after an 1850s inn.

39. RHODE ISLAND // WOONSOCKET

The sixth largest city in Rhode Island was historically known as la ville la plus française aux États-Unis, which translates to “the most French city in the United States.” Although during the Depression three-quarters of Woonsocket’s residents were of French-Canadian descent, by the 2000 census, that number had dipped to 46.1 percent. “Woonsocket,” though, does not come from French. Historians agree that the town’s whimsical name is a corruption of a word from a Native American language, but they don’t agree on the language, much less the word, from which it derives.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // KETCHUPTOWN

This Horry County town got its name from a country store built by Herbert Small in 1927, but not because of the condiments it sold. Every week, farmers would flock to Small’s store to “catch up” on news and gossip. As a town grew up around the store, the name stuck.

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // MUD BUTTE

Mud Butte was named for a nearby barren butte—that is, an isolated hill with steep sides and a flat top. In 1981, archeologists digging around in Mud Butte unearthed the sixth Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered, after a local rancher finally got around to calling a museum about the dinosaur bones he’d seen jutting out of a cliff on his property for years.

42. TENNESSEE // DIFFICULT

There are competing theories on the genesis of Difficult’s name. One holds that when town residents applied for a post office, the U.S. Postal Service responded, “your name is difficult,” referring either to its pronunciation, spelling, or the handwriting on the application. Residents took the letter as an order, and accepted the name Difficult. The other theory goes that the town named itself Difficult out of spite after a postal official suggested its name was too hard to pronounce.

43. TEXAS // DING DONG

Upon learning that the town of Ding Dong is located in Bell County, Texas, you might reasonably conclude that the two facts are related. But you’d be wrong. The community was named after its founders, the Bell family—but they’re unrelated to Governor Peter Hansborough Bell, in whose honor the county was named.

44. UTAH // MEXICAN HAT

Visitors to Mexican Hat, Utah, never have to wonder how the community got its name. The answer is as plain as day: a 60-foot-wide, sombrero-shaped rock formation on the northeast side of town.

45. VERMONT // SATANS KINGDOM

If New England town names are any indication, Satan’s been awfully busy. The prince of darkness evidently has franchises in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont—the latter of which was purportedly named by a resentful settler who "expected fertile, rolling acres and had received rocks and hills instead."

46. VIRGINIA // BUMPASS

It’s pronounced “bump-iss,” the locals will tell you—if they tell you anything at all. Many Bumpass residents have developed a no-talking-to-strangers policy. Maybe they're just tired of being the butt of every joke.

47. WASHINGTON // HUMPTULIPS

humptulips washington

This tiny town, located about 25 miles north of Aberdeen (famous as Kurt Cobain's birthplace), was once a major logging center. Today it's better known for its unusual name, which comes from a local Native American word meaning "hard to pole." The phrase is a reference to the nearby Humptulips River, which Native Americans used to canoe by propelling themselves along with poles. The unusual-sounding term has brought the area a bit of fame: Humptulips is mentioned in the books Another Popular Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins and The Long World by Sir Terry Pratchett.

48. WEST VIRGINIA // LICK FORK

While the name of this unincorporated community might whet your appetite, it's likely named for a nearby salt lick, which was probably more appealing to horses and wild animals than humans. There's a Lick Fork creek, road, and more nearby, so there's no shortage of photo opportunities.

49. WISCONSIN // BOSSTOWN

This Richland County, Wisconsin, community reportedly takes its name from William Henry Dosch. Nickname: Boss. According to The Romance of Wisconsin Place Names, Dosch was sick as a boy, and he got so used to the attention he received while ill that he later became rather bossy with his family. Later, he owned a store on the site of an old saw mill.

50. WYOMING // CHUGWATER

It’s Chug-water, not Chug-water. The land that this tiny Wyoming town calls home was once the territory of the Mandan tribe, whose chief was reportedly injured during a buffalo hunt and sent his son to lead the hunting party in his place. According to Chugwater’s website, the son determined that the easiest way to kill the buffalo was to drive them off the local chalk cliffs. “The word ‘chug,’” the town’s website notes, “is said to describe the noise that the buffalo or the falling chalk made when it hit the ground or fell into the water under the bluff, depending on which version of the legend you wish to believe. Indians began to call the area ‘water at the place where the buffalo chug.’” When white settlers came to the area, they used the Native American terminology for the land, dubbing it Chug Springs. A local stream was named Chugwater Creek (after Chug Springs), and that’s where the town gets its name.

By Erika Berlin, Stacy Conradt, April Daley, Michele Debczak, Kirstin Fawcett, Shaunacy Ferro, Kate Horowitz, Kat Long, Bess Lovejoy, Erin McCarthy, Jen Pinkowski, Lucas Reilly, Nico Rivero, Jake Rossen, Jay Serafino, and Jenn Wood.

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The Best Dive Bar in All 50 States
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Dive bars are the perfect antidote to exorbitant cocktail prices and highfalutin mixologists who insist on putting a dozen ingredients into your whiskey sour. These casual, unpretentious spots serve a variety of inexpensive beers, cocktails, and (occasionally) snacks. Although there are tons of dive bars scattered across the country, we’re choosing the best dive bar in every state, based on the bar’s drink menu, reputation, and overall aesthetic.

1. ALABAMA // THE UPSIDEDOWN PLAZA

Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Founded in 1962, the Upsidedown Plaza might be the ultimate spot for good drinks and good times. It stays open until 2 a.m. every night, giving patrons plenty of time to play pool, dance to oldies, and sing karaoke.

2. ALASKA // SANDBAR

Location: Juneau, Alaska

Sandbar serves Alaskan beer on tap and delicious halibut fish and chips. The friendly bartenders, three pool tables, and golf game machine keep customers coming back.

3. ARIZONA // RIPS BAR

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

People come to Rips Bar to let loose and forget their troubles. Expect to find killer ales and cocktails, a fun rockabilly vibe, and bar games including pinball, pool, and darts. There’s also karaoke, open mic events, and all-day drink specials.

4. ARKANSAS // THE WHITE WATER TAVERN

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Head to this hole in the wall for strong whiskey, cheap beer, and live music. The atmosphere is eclectic, with tons of twinkle lights, graffiti on the walls, and a Miller Lite clock behind the bar. There’s also a canoe hanging from the ceiling.

5. CALIFORNIA // CLOONEY’S PUB

Location: San Francisco, California

Situated in the Mission district, Clooney’s Pub is a casual spot famous for its circular bar and friendly service. Happy hour starts bright and early—at 6 a.m.—and for entertainment, there's a pool table and TV.

6. COLORADO // THE SINK

Location: Boulder, Colorado

bar back at The Sink
The Sink

With $3 well drinks, $4 drafts, and $5 martinis during happy hour, the Sink knows how to please. Everyone from chef Anthony Bourdain to former President Barack Obama has visited the bar, which has been open since 1923. Order the bar’s legendary burger and pizza as you marvel at the trippy artwork on the walls and ceiling.

7. CONNECTICUT // THE HUNGRY TIGER

Location: Manchester, Connecticut

Originally a soda and ice cream shop, the Hungry Tiger is now a beloved dive bar and music venue. Sunday brunch features cheap Bloody Marys and Bud Light pitchers, and the spot serves delectable burgers, wings, and sliders.

8. DELAWARE // FAMOUS TOM’S TAVERN

Location: Hockessin, Delaware

With $3 beer and $4 wine and liquor, Famous Tom’s brings the boozy goods. The TVs play plenty of NFL games, so you can watch your favorite teams as you sip your drink.

9. FLORIDA // FREE SPIRITS SPORTS CAFE

Location: Miami Beach, Florida

Bartenders pour generously at this Miami Beach bar. After you knock back a few drinks, try the perfectly greasy chicken fingers and fries and relax in front of a sports game.

10. GEORGIA // NORTHSIDE TAVERN

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

North Side Bar
Daniel B., Yelp

Built in the ‘40s, Northside Tavern was a neighborhood grocery store and gas station before it morphed into a blue-collar bar. With live music seven nights a week and paintings on the wall dedicated to blues and jazz musicians, this dive bar is a music lover’s paradise.

11. HAWAII // HANKS CAFE HONOLULU

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Located in Honolulu’s Chinatown, Hanks Cafe Honolulu is a tiny bar with a big heart. The bartenders are friendly, the walls feature island-inspired portraits, and a jukebox and live music keep guests happily entertained.

12. IDAHO // WHISKEY RIVER

Location: Nampa, Idaho

Whiskey River has been around for almost a decade, offering a full liquor bar and tons of bottled beers. There’s a dance floor, darts, pool tables, and a jukebox, and the bar stays open until 1 a.m. every night.

13. ILLINOIS // THE DOUBLE BUBBLE

Location: Chicago, Illinois

People rave about the Double Bubble. The neighborhood bar serves craft beers at reasonable prices, and the TVs play plenty of football games. If you’re an Irish whiskey fan, be sure to get a Jameson shot.

14. INDIANA // CHECKERED FLAG TAVERN

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

Checkered Flag Tavern
Linda M., Yelp

Checkered Flag Tavern has a great selection of draft beers, liquor, and burgers. Named for the Indy 500, naturally, the bar has plenty of non-alcohol related entertainment including a photo booth, pool table, darts, and live music on the weekends.

15. IOWA // THE HIGH LIFE LOUNGE

Location: Des Moines, Iowa

The High Life Lounge is a popular destination for beer aficionados. Lovers of Miller High Life (the “champagne of beers”) will especially love this bar, which has a ‘60s and ‘70s vibe thanks to the vintage beer signs and retro wood paneling. If you work up an appetite, try the fried dill-pickle spears and the cheese curds.

16. KANSAS // JOHNNIE’S ON SEVENTH

Location: Kansas City, Kansas

Established in 1934, Johnnie’s On Seventh has long been one of Kansas’ favorite watering holes. The retro vibe and friendly regulars will make you feel right at home, and the darts, shuffleboard, and popcorn machine will keep you entertained all night.

17. KENTUCKY // T. EDDIE’S BAR AND GRILL

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

If low-key bars that serve cheap beer are your thing, head to T. Eddie’s Bar and Grill in Germantown. With 42 craft beers, a fenced-in back patio, and karaoke nights, you can’t go wrong.

18. LOUISIANA // SNAKE AND JAKE’S CHRISTMAS CLUB LOUNGE

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Katie D., Yelp

Situated in a dark shack, Snake And Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge gives all who enter it the ultimate dive bar experience. Christmas lights illuminate the tiny space year-round, and the bar serves cheap local beers and shots every night (including Christmas).

19. MAINE // SPRING POINT TAVERN

Location: South Portland, Maine

Drink specials, good pub food, and live music? Check. Spring Point Tavern serves well drinks and Jell-O shots, and there are darts and pool to help guests unwind from the day’s stresses.

20. MARYLAND // BUCK MURPHY'S BAR

Location: Odenton, Maryland

Walking down the stairs to this basement dive bar will transport you to a simpler time and place. Everyone seems to know everyone else, and the cold beer and homemade spicy chili will make you feel right at home.

21. MASSACHUSETTS // THE VICTORIA BAR

Location: Greenfield, Massachusetts

The Vic is the ultimate place to down lagers, fireball shots, and Irish coffee while you watch a Red Sox game. The family-owned and -operated bar also has three big-screen TVs, a jukebox, and darts.

22. MICHIGAN // BANFIELD'S BAR

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Banfield’s Bar opened in 1982 and has been drawing in locals ever since. The hole-in-the-wall serves strong drinks and tasty burgers, and it hosts events such as ‘70s karaoke nights.

23. MINNESOTA // SKINNERS PUB & EATERY

Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Owned by husband and wife duo Pete and Molly Skinner, Skinners Pub & Eatery is a laid-back bar that serves beer on tap, wine, tacos and pizza. The big TV screens by the bar, plus the low prices, make regulars come back again and again.

24. MISSISSIPPI // THE PROJECT LOUNGE

Location: Biloxi, Mississippi

Customers rave about the friendly service, strong drinks, and rib-eye steak sandwich at the Project Lounge. The dark, smoky dive bar has an electronic jukebox and is cash-only.

25. MISSOURI // THE HAUNT

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

The haunt
Terri Daniels

Billed as a tavern for the macabre at heart, the Haunt is a Goth-themed dive bar with $2 well drinks, $11 domestic buckets, a pool table, and live music. If Halloween is your favorite holiday, you’ll love the spooky décor and horror films playing on the TV.

26. MONTANA // THE RHINOCEROS

Location: Missoula, Montana

Since 1987, the Rhino has impressed customers with its beer and scotch selections. With 50 beers on tap and more than 50 single-malt scotches, this dive bar also offers pool, shuffleboard, and plenty of good times.

27. NEBRASKA // BEER CITY

Location: Omaha, Nebraska

Across from Hitchcock Park is Beer City, a bar that offers $2 fireball shots every Monday, $5 pitchers on Wednesday, and karaoke on Friday nights. There are also free peanuts and popcorn, pool and darts, 11 TVs, and mini-golf in the back.

28. NEVADA // DOUBLE DOWN SALOON

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

double down bar exterior
Jonathon S., Yelp

Since 1992, Double Down has been a haven for people who want to break away from the pricey Vegas strip. Dubbed the anti-Vegas, this bar serves eye-popping drinks like the original bacon martini (Slim Jim garnish and all). There’s also pool, pinball, and live music.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // PENUCHE’S CONCORD

Location: Concord, New Hampshire

Penuche’s really promotes music and emerging artists. Bands play often and open mic opportunities abound. Whether you order beer or cocktails, this bar will put you in a partying mood.

30. NEW JERSEY // JIMMY GEEZ

Locations: Haledon and Oak Ridge, New Jersey

Jimmy Geez
Jonathan M., Yelp

Jimmy Geez dominates the north Jersey dive bar scene. You’ll find more than 20 beers on tap, chicken wings galore, and plenty of TVs tuned to sports games. Jimmy Geez also hosts live music and trivia nights, making it the ultimate hangout spot.

31. NEW MEXICO // SILVA’S SALOON

Location: Bernalillo, New Mexico

In 1933, a former bootlegger and moonshiner named Felix Silva opened Silva’s Saloon. Today, the biker bar is the longest continuously running business on historic Route 66. Dollar bills, raunchy photos, and old liquor bottles decorate the space.

32. NEW YORK // MILANO’S BAR

Location: New York, New York

Located on Houston Street a few blocks north of Little Italy, Milano’s Bar might be Manhattan’s best old-school dive bar. It’s been open since 1880! All-day-and-night specials include Tecate, Narragansett, and Rolling Rock.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // LOCAL BAR

Location: Apex, North Carolina

Local Bar began in the ‘30s as a gas station, but today it serves cold drinks to happy customers. Besides $1 Jell-O shots and Monday movie nights, the bar also has live music, pool tables, horseshoe pits, and dart boards.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // BORROWED BUCKS ROADHOUSE

Location: Bismarck, North Dakota

There’s something for everyone at Borrowed Bucks, from beer pong on Tuesdays to ladies’ night on Wednesdays (women can get $2 Schooners). Between sips of your beer, munch on the pizza and wings.

35. OHIO // BECKY’S BAR

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Although Becky’s Bar is near Cleveland State University, it’s not just for students. Since 1986, Becky’s has served a diverse group of diehard customers who enjoy the PBRs and IPAs, mozzarella sticks, and arcade games. There’s also a jukebox, biweekly karaoke, and multiple big screen TVs that play football, baseball, and basketball games.

36. OKLAHOMA // ORPHA’S LOUNGE

Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Located in downtown Tulsa, Orpha’s Lounge is a small, welcoming joint with two pool tables and plenty of drink specials. Just be aware that some patrons still smoke inside.

37. OREGON // THE LOW BROW

Location: Portland, Oregon

Opened in 1998, The Low Brow might be the best place to unwind in Portland. The dimly lit bar discourages patrons from being glued to their screens, and the menu includes everything from nachos to kale salad.

38. PENNSYLVANIA // JAMES BAR

Location: Enola, Pennsylvania

For more than two decades, James Bar has served cheap drinks to thirsty Pennsylvanians. A neon Bud Light sign in the window greets customers, who can sip beer from Mason jars and play tunes on the bar’s jukebox.

39. RHODE ISLAND // CAPTAIN SEAWEED'S FAMILY PUB

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Captain Seaweed’s is a true dive bar—and proud of it. The walls of the Fox Point bar feature nautical décor, making it the right place for people who like sipping beer near ship wheels, life ring buoys, pirate paraphernalia, and whale artwork.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // TATTOOED MOOSE

Location: Charleston, South Carolina

the tattooed moose
Jimmy S., Yelp

Despite its extensive craft beer selection and tasty food, this downtown dive is down-to-earth and unassuming. Get the grilled cheese sandwich or the bar’s namesake burger, and wash it down with your choice of pale ales, pilsners, and porters.

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // THE THIRSTY DUCK

Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The Thirsty Duck is a popular destination for affordable drinks, great pizza, and live music. You’ll find groups of friends and coworkers singing karaoke, playing pool, and tossing darts.

42. TENNESSEE // DINO’S

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Dino's
Alex W., Yelp

As East Nashville’s oldest dive bar, Dino’s has built a rock-solid reputation as a top-notch spot. Beers include a selection of Coors, Budweiser, Stiegl, Yuengling, Miller High Life, and Tecate. Food options include cheeseburgers, fries, and fish and chips.

43. TEXAS // THE ABBEY UNDERGROUND

Location: Denton, Texas

This British tavern, located in Courthouse Square, has a little something for everyone. From imported beers and ciders to stouts and lagers, the Abbey Underground has an impressive alcohol menu. Different nights have musical themes ranging from big band and funk to disco trash and ‘90s dance.

44. UTAH // X-WIFE’S PLACE

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Having fun at X-Wife’s Place won’t break the bank, thanks to cheap beer cans and shots. Customers can play pool inside or head to the big outdoor patio to play cornhole.

45. VERMONT // OTHER PLACE

Location: Burlington, Vermont

Other place
Matt S., Yelp

Dive bar connoisseurs love Other Place (The OP), where there’s plenty of beer, mimosas, and Bloody Marys to go around. The sports-themed tabletops, pool table, and occasional movie nights make The OP a neighborhood institution.

46. VIRGINIA // LYNNHAVEN PUB

Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Friendly bartenders and a stellar selection of seasonal and Virginian craft beers make Lynnhaven Pub stand out from other bars. The mouthwatering brisket and barbecue tacos are also beloved.

47. WASHINGTON // THE MULE TAVERN

Location: Tacoma, Washington

Although the Mule Tavern serves an abundance of beer and cocktails, Moscow Mules are its specialty. Bartenders make ginger beer from scratch by juicing lemons and ginger, adding cane sugar and water, and carbonating the liquid. Moscow Mules are $4 during happy hour, and well drinks are just $3.

48. WEST VIRGINIA // THE BOULEVARD TAVERN

Location: Charleston, West Virginia

At the Boulevard Tavern, craft cocktails focus on bourbon and gin. You can’t go wrong with any of the bar’s signature cocktails, the best of which is the West Virginia Coal Rush, a honey-infused bourbon. Live music and open mic nights, as well as reggae Sundays, keep excitement levels high.

49. WISCONSIN // SILVER DOLLAR TAVERN

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Less crowded than nearby bars, Silver Dollar Tavern has been a family-owned bar since 1933. The shuffleboard, darts, and pool are a big hit with loyal customers. The bar is cash-only, but there’s an ATM inside.

50. WYOMING // THE BUCKHORN BAR & PARLOR

Location: Laramie, Wyoming

Buckhorn bar
RunAway B., Yelp

The Buckhorn Bar is older than you. It’s been around since 1900, and today visitors can see the bar’s famous bullet hole, elk, and two-headed calf on display. Tuesday is $1 pint night, Wednesday is karaoke night, and Thursday is the night for $1 jack-and-Cokes.

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