Bull Shark

Carcharhinus leucas (Muller & Henle, 1839)


Bull shark Photo by Ian Banks

Total length to 3.4 m, but in rivers mostly 0.8 – 1.4 m. Males mature at 2.1 – 2.25 m and females at 2.2 – 2.3 m. Distinguished by heavy body shape, short, bluntly rounded snout and small eyes. Colouration is pale grey, grey-brown to very dark steel-grey above, and creamy-white below. The serrated upper teeth are heavy and broadly triangular. The lower teeth are narrower, but still relatively robust. The second dorsal fin is relatively high (height of first dorsal fin is less than 3.1 times the height of the second dorsal fin). Fins generally have faint dusky edges, but are not strongly marked. In juveniles, the rear edge of caudal fin has a black edge, but this fades with growth.


Habitat & range

Inshore waters, bays, estuaries and riverine freshwater reaches. Dams and weirs present a barrier to upstream migration. Found throughout northern Australia, from Perth, WA, to Sydney, NSW, but also in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide.

Similar species

Pigeye Whaler (Carcharhinus amboinensis) has a smaller second dorsal fin. Dusky Whaler (Carcharhinus obscurus) has a low ridge on back between the dorsal fins.


Based on the number of attacks on humans, this is probably the world’s most dangerous shark. Large specimens are usually marine, while young adults and juveniles are most common in rivers and canals.

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