Bull Shark

Carcharhinus leucas

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The bull shark is a large apex predator. They are stout-bodied animals with adults typically measuring between 7 and 9 feet (2.13 to 2.74 m) in length and weighing over 200 lbs. (90.7 kg). The body is dark gray on top and white on the belly. There are two dorsal fins with the second being smaller. The head is pointed with a small snout.

Unlike most sharks, the bull shark can survive for long periods of time in brackish or even freshwater and have been found in rivers and lakes miles from the open ocean. Although there are few recorded interactions between people and bull sharks in freshwater, some notable attacks have taken place in waters where shark activity would never be expected. This species is thought to have been responsible for the famous “New Jersey shore attacks” of 1916, which culminated in five deaths that partially inspired the book JAWS.

Although bull sharks are responsible for some near-shore bites on humans, we are in no way part of their diet. Most bull shark attacks may be a case of mistaken identity where the fish cannot see clearly in the murky water so it uses a bump-and-bite technique to identify potential prey. Due to the shark’s tremendous bite force, however, an exploratory bite may cause extreme injury or death. Its preferred diet consists of bony fish and other sharks. Sea turtles, birds, dolphins, crustaceans and echinoderms may sometimes be eaten as well.

Range and Habitat

Bull sharks are found all over the world in coastal waters and occasionally in freshwater. They prefer murky water which makes it easier for them to ambush their prey.

Conservation Status

Near threatened. Aside from the issues facing many shark species — loss of habitat, competition for food sources and changing ocean conditions due to climate change — this shark’s numbers are dwindling as it is actively hunted in certain parts of the world. Recent studies have shown that their population worldwide has dropped significantly in recent decades.