Carcharhinus leucas  (Müller & Henle, 1839)

Bull shark
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Carcharhinus leucas
Picture by Randall, J.E.

Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays) > Carcharhiniformes (Ground sharks) > Carcharhinidae (Requiem sharks)
Etymology: Carcharhinus: Greek, karcharos = sharpen + Greek, rhinos = nose (Ref. 45335).

Environment / Climate / Range Ecology

Marine; freshwater; brackish; reef-associated; amphidromous (Ref. 51243); depth range 1 - 152 m (Ref. 30573), usually 1 - 30 m (Ref. 55183).   Subtropical; 42°N - 39°S, 117°W - 170°W (Ref. 55182)

Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm 193.0, range 180 - 230 cm
Max length : 360 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 85726); 400.0 cm TL (female); common length : 260 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 9253); max. published weight: 316.5 kg (Ref. 40637); max. reported age: 32 years (Ref. 42004)

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 0; Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 0. A massive shark with a short, broad and blunt snout, small eyes and triangular saw-edged upper teeth; and lack of interdorsal ridge are sufficient to distinguish this species (Ref. 26938). Teeth in the upper jaw are upright, strongly serrated, triangular and broad at their bases, while in the lower jaw they are more slender and pointed (Ref. 12484, 81283, 81623). Symphysial teeth present on both jaws, tooth formula 12-14/12-13 on each side of jaws (Ref. 81623). Spiracles absent, posterior lateral gill-slits overlapping origin of pectoral fins (Ref. 81623). First dorsal fin broad and triangular and less than 3.2 times height of second dorsal fin; beginning slightly before anal-fin origin; no interdorsal ridge (Ref. 5578, 81253). Second dorsal fin much smaller than first, situated over anal fin (Ref. 81623). Pectoral fins rather large and broad (Ref. 81623). Precaudal vertebral centra 101-103, total vertebral centra 198-227 (Ref. 81623). The colour of the body is predominantly grey with a pale to white underside (Ref. 5578, 12484). Juveniles have black tips to their fins, which fade with age (Ref. 9997, 12484).

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

Widespread in warm oceans, rivers and lakes. Western Atlantic: Massachusetts, USA to Argentina (Ref. 58839). Eastern Atlantic: Morocco, Senegal to Angola (Ref. 81283). Indo-Pacific: Kenya and South Africa to India, then, Viet Nam to Australia; southern Baja California, Mexico to Ecuador and possibly occurring in Peru. Sympatric with Carcharhinus amboinensis, Glyphis gangeticus.

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

A coastal and freshwater shark inhabiting shallow waters especially in bays, estuaries, rivers, and lakes. Readily penetrates far up rivers and hypersaline bays (Ref. 9997, 44894). Capable of covering great distances (up to 180 kilometers in 24 hours), moving between fresh and brackish water at random (Ref. 44894). Adults often found near estuaries and freshwater inflows to the sea; young enter rivers and may be found hundreds of km from the sea (Ref. 4967, 44894, 58304). Feeds on bony fishes, other sharks, rays, mantis shrimps, crabs, squid, sea snails, sea urchins, mammalian carrion, sea turtles, and occasionally garbage (Ref. 244, 5578, 44894). Very hardy and lives well in captivity, probably the most dangerous species of tropical shark (Ref. 244), it is repeatedly implicated in attacks on humans (Ref. 4967, 44894). Attacks in fresh water are rare (Ref. 44894). Viviparous (Ref. 50449). Gives birth to litters of up to 13 young (Ref. 26938, 44894). Size at birth is 56-81 cm TL (Ref. 81623). Sexual maturity is attained after 10-15 years (at a length between 160-200 centimeters) (Ref. 44894). Though not commercially important, this species is a good food fish (Ref. 12484). Utilized fresh, fresh-frozen or smoked for human consumption, fins for soup, hide for leather, liver for oil, and carcass for fishmeal (Ref. 244).

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

Viviparpous, with a yolk-sac placenta, 1-13 young in a litter. Size at birth about 60 cm TL (Ref. 9997). In the western North Atlantic off Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, and off South Africa, young are born in late spring or early summer. Off Nicaragua, females may have young throughout the year, with a peak in spring and early summer. Estimated gestation period is 10 to 11 months (Ref. 244). Distinct pairing with embrace (Ref. 205). Females often have courtship scars, but males are rarely seen with fighting scars (Ref. 244).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator : Compagno, Leonard J.V. | Collaborators

Compagno, L.J.V., 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 2 - Carcharhiniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/2):251-655. Rome: FAO. (Ref. 244)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 96402)

CITES (Ref. 94142)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans

  Traumatogenic (Ref. 4690)




Human uses

Fisheries: commercial; gamefish: yes
FAO(fisheries: production; publication : search) | FisheriesWiki | Sea Around Us

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Estimates of some properties based on models

Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805):  PD50 = 0.5000   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00468 (0.00358 - 0.00611), b=3.07 (3.02 - 3.12), based on LWR estimates for this species (Ref. 93245).
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278):  4.3   ±0.5 se; Based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 69278):  Very Low, minimum population doubling time more than 14 years (K=0.04-0.08; tm=6-18; tmax=28).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  Very high vulnerability (88 of 100) .
Price category (Ref. 80766):   Medium.