Dusky Whaler, Carcharhinus obscurus (Lesueur 1818)

Other Names: Black Whaler, Black Whaler Shark, Bronze Whaler, Common Whaler Shark, Dusky Shark, River Whaler, Slender Whaler Shark, Whaler Shark

A Dusky Whaler, Carcharhinus obscurus, Sydney, New South Wales, August 2006. Source: petersimpson / iNaturalist.org. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

A large predatory bronze-grey to dark grey shark with a white underside, a faint pale stripe extending anteriorly on the side, and dusky fins tips in juveniles, but less so in adults. The species has an interdorsal ridge and dusky tip on the second dorsal fin.
Juvenile Dusky Whalers in the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, Fairy Bower, Sydney.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Carcharhinus obscurus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jul 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/1953

Dusky Whaler, Carcharhinus obscurus (Lesueur 1818)

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Found around Australia including the Lord Howe Province and Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea, although rare in Tasmanian waters. Elsewhere the species has a patchy distribution in tropical and temperate seas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The species is coastal and pelagic, occurring along continental margins from the surf zone to well offshore.


Vertebrae 173–194 (86–97 precaudal)

Snout moderately long (length to mouth 5–10% TL), bluntly rounded; labial furrows short and inconspicuous; upper teeth broadly triangular with serrated cusps; 1st dorsal-fin origin over free rear tip of pectoral fin, both sets of fins tapering distally, apices pointed or narrowly rounded; interdorsal ridge present.


Reaches 3.65 m TL.


Bronzy grey to dark grey above, white below; faint pale stripe extending anteriorly on flank from pelvic fins; fins tips mostly dusky in juveniles, but less so in adults (dusky tip on second dorsal fin).


Males mature at 265–280 cm TL, females mature at 257–310 cm TL. Reproduction is placental viviparous with a long gestation of 22 months, litter sizes of 2–18 pups, a two or three year reproductive cycle, and size-at-birth of 70–100 cm TL.


Targeted and taken as bycatch in commercial and small-scale pelagic longline, purse seine, and gillnet fisheries worldwide - mostly as bycatch of commercial pelagic fleets in offshore and high-seas waters. The species may be retained for the meat and fins. 


The Dusky Whaler is one of the pelagic sharks most vulnerable to overfishing.

Species Citation

Squalus obscurus Lesueur, 1818, J. Acad. nat. Sci., Philad., 1: 223, pl. 9. Type locality: No locality (= east coast U.S.A.)


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Dusky Whaler, Carcharhinus obscurus (Lesueur 1818)


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Rigby, C.L., Barreto, R., Carlson, J., Fernando, D., Fordham, S., Francis, M.P., Herman, K., Jabado, R.W., Liu, K.M., Marshall, A., Pacoureau, N., Romanov, E., Sherley, R.B. & Winker, H. 2019. Carcharhinus obscurus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T3852A2872747. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T3852A2872747.en. Accessed on 26 September 2022.

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Stevens, J.D. 1994. Families Carcharhinidae, Triakidae, Scyliorhinidae. pp. 120-138 figs 76-107 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

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Whitley, G.P. 1940. The Fishes of Australia. Part 1. The sharks, rays, devil-fish, and other primitive fishes of Australia and New Zealand. Sydney : Roy. Zool. Soc. N.S.W. 280 pp. 303 figs. (as Galeolamna macrurus)

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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37018003

Conservation:IUCN Endangered

Depth:0-500 m

Fishing:Commercial fish

Habitat:Pelagic, coastal, offshore

Max Size:420 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map