Common name: Requiem Sharks, Whaler Sharks



Small to large streamlined sharks with five gill slits (the last over or behind the pectoral-fin origin); two dorsal fins (lacking spines, the first large), first dorsal-fin base before origin of pelvic fin; anal fin present; caudal fin length much less than half total length, upper lobe much longer than lower lobe, precaudal pits on tail base; naso-oral grooves absent; spiracles present only in Galeocerdo; eye with a well-developed nictitating membrane; intestine with a spiral valve.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Whaler Sharks, CARCHARHINIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

A relatively large family with 12 genera and about 58 species known from tropical and subtropical regions of the world's oceans ( Last & Stevens 2009; Eschmeyer & Fong 2012).

The Australian fauna currently comprises 31 species known in eight genera (Last & Stevens, 2009). 

Family Distribution

Worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions. Some species enter fresh water, but the group is primarily marine. Many species are widespread and occur in several oceans.

The family contains the largest number of species of sharks and includes sharks encountered most frequently in coastal regions. Species are common on coral reefs and other areas of the continental shelf, with some occurring in oceanic waters of the continental slope.

Family Size

Adults from about 1 to at least 5 m.

Family Feeding

Species feed on a variety of invertebrates, birds, marine mammals, sea snakes, fishes and somtimes garbage. Some species of carcharinids are known to be responsible for attacks on humans.

Family Reproduction

Most species are viviparous, but some are ovoviviparous.


Dianne J. Bray


Cavanagh R.D., Kyne, P.M., Fowler, S.L., Musick, J.A. & Bennett, M.B. (eds). (2003). The Conservation Status of Australian Chondrichthyans: Report of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group Australia and Oceania Regional Red List Workshop. The University of Queensland, School of Biomedical Sciences, Brisbane, Australia. X+ 170pp.

Compagno, L.J.V. (1970). Systematics of the genus Hemitriakis (Selachii : Carcharhinidae), and related genera. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 38(4): 63–98 figs 1–8

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Compagno, L.J.V. (1984). FAO Species Catalogue. Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1. — Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. Rome : FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125. Vol. 4(1): 1–249 figs

Compagno, L.J.V. (1984). FAO Species Catalogue. Sharks of the World. Annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 2. — Carcharhiniformes. Rome : FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125. Vol 4(2): 251–655 figs

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Eschmeyer, W.N. 2012. Catalog of Fishes. Online version updated 15 March 2012.

Fowler, H.W. (1941). Contributions to the biology of the Philippine Archipelago and adjacent regions. The fishes of the groups Elasmobranchii, Holocephali, Isospondyli and Ostariophysi obtained by the United States Bureau of Fisheries Steamer Albatross in 1907 to 1910, chiefly in the Philippine Islands and adjacent seas. Bull. U.S. Natl. Mus. 100(13): 1–879 figs 1–30

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Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Collingwood : CSIRO Publishing Australia 2, 550 pp.

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