Northern River Shark, Glyphis garricki Compagno, White & Last 2008

Other Names: New Guinea River Shark

A Northern River Shark, Glyphis garricki, from coastal marine waters of the Daru region, Western Province, Papua New Guinea. Source: White et al. 2015 PLoS ONE 10(10): e0140075. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140075. License: CC by Attribution


A rare greyish shark with the grey colour extending about one eye diameter distance below the eye, no dark blotch on the pelvic-fin tips, small eyes and a broadly-rounded snout, and the second dorsal fin about equal to or more than half the height of the first dorsal fin and positioned above the anal fin.

Video of Northern River Shark surveys in the West Alligator River, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory.

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2017, Glyphis garricki in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 May 2024,

Northern River Shark, Glyphis garricki Compagno, White & Last 2008

More Info


Distribution uncertain. Known from the Ord and King Rivers, King Sound and Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, Western Australia, and the South and East Alligator Rivers, and the Wessel Islands, Northern Territory. Also recorded from the Western Province, Papua New Guinea.


Body stout, length of trunk from fifth gill slits to vent 1.13 in HL; head broad and flattened, outline of head in lateral view undulated dorsally, nearly straight on snout, weakly convex above eye, moderately concave at nape and convex above gills; snout elongated and somewhat flattened; lips not concealing teeth when mouth closed; caudal peduncle stout; precaudal pits present; eyes small, length 23.25-30.88 in HL, dorsolaterally positioned; nictitating lower eyelids internal with deep subocular pouches and secondary lower eyelids fused to upper eyelids; spiracles absent; nostrils with very large oval incurrent apertures; mouth broadly arched and large; mouth length 1.80-2.09 in mouth width; teeth relatively few, highly differentiated in upper and lower jaws; upper teeth with tall, flat, blade like cusps; lower teeth with narrow, tall, slightly hooked to straight cusps; claspers of adult male short, relatively broad.
Covered by small tooth-like dermal denticles.
Pectoral fins large, anterior margin slightly convex, posterior margin strongly convex, base broad (60% fin length); pelvic fins triangular, anterior margin nearly straight and slightly concave near base, edges narrowly rounded, posterior margin nearly straight or slightly convex, free rear tip bluntly rounded; 1st doral fin apically narrow and broadly triangular, free rear tip acutely pointed; 2nd dorsal fin apically narrow, subtriangular, height 0.58-0.66 times 1st dorsal fin height, free rear tip acutely pointed; anal fin apically narrow, anterior margin indented basally and distally broadly convex, apex bluntly pointed, posterior margin deeply notched, free tip acutely pointed, insertion slightly behind 2nd dorsal fin insertion; caudal fin narrow-lobed and asymmetrical with short terminal lobe and long, barrowly expanded ventral lobe.


To around 251 cm TL


Uniformly medium slate-grey on dorsal surface of sides of head, trunk and tail, abruptly whitish on lower lateral and ventral surfaces.


Likely to feed on fishes, other sharks, invertebrates, marine mammals and marine reptiles.


Likely to be viviparous.


  • EPBC Act 1999 : Endangered
  • IUCN Red List : Critically Endangered
  • Similar Species

    Glyphis garricki can be confused with the Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas) as the latter is known to occur in the same habitat and possibly occupies the known range of the former at some stages of its life cycle. G. garricki can be distinguished from the Bull Shark by its taller second dorsal fin (about two-thirds the height of the first dorsal), the triangular shape of the first dorsal fin, and the small eye located on the grey-shaded part of the head as opposed to the white counter-shaded part. Additionally, when G. garricki is alive it is steely grey in colour in comparison to the yellowish grey of the Bull Shark (Larson 2000 cited in Pogonoski et al. 2002). G. garricki is also very difficult to distinguish from other Glyphis species and accurate identifications need to include x-rays of the vertebral column (see Taniuchi et al. 1991). From Pogonoski & Pollard 2003.


    Species named for Prof. J.A.F. Garrick of Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand for his revisions of the Carcharhinidae and who discovered this species in the form of two newborn males from PNG.


    Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2017

    Northern River Shark, Glyphis garricki Compagno, White & Last 2008


    Berra, T.M. 2010. Clarification of field characters for three freshwater sharks and a photographic atlas of Glyphis glyphis and G. garricki from Adelaide River, Northern Territory, Australia. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 26: 109–114.

    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. FAO Fish. Synop. No. 125, vol. 4.

    Compagno, L.J.V. 2002. Freshwater and estuarine elasmobranch surveys in the Indo-Pacific region: threats, distribution and speciation. In: S.L. Fowler, T.M. Reed and F.A. Dipper (eds) Elasmobranch Biodiversity, Conservation and Management; Proceedings of the International Seminar and Workshop, Sabah, Malaysia, July 1997. IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK

    Compagno, L.J.V. & Niem, V.H. 1998. Family Carcharhinidae Requiem sharks In: K.E. Carpenter and V.H. Niem (eds) FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 2. pp: 1312-1360. FAO, Rome

    Compagno, L.J.V., Dando, M. & Fowler, S. 2005. A Field Guide to the Sharks of the World. London : Collins 368 pp.

    Compagno, L.J.V., White, W.T. & Last, P.R. 2008. Glyphis garricki sp. nov., a new species of river shark (Carcharhiniformes: Carcharhinidae) from northern Australia and Papua New Guinea, with a redescription of Glyphis glyphis (Müller & Henle, 1839). 203–226 in Last, P.R., White, W.T. & Pogonoski, J.J. (eds). Descriptions of new Australian chondrichthyans. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Paper No. 022: 1-358.

    Kyne, P. M. & Feutry, P. 2017. Recreational fishing impacts on threatened river sharks: A potential conservation issue. Ecological Management and Restorationdoi:10.1111/emr.12266 Open access

    Larson, H. 2000. Threatened Fish Profiles. Northern Speartooth Shark Glyphis sp. C. Australian Society for Fish Biology Newsletter 30(1): 30.

    Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls. (as Glyphis sp A - in part)

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

    Li, C., S. Corrigan, L. Yang, N. Straube, M. Harris, M. Hofreiterd, W.T. White & G.J.P. Naylor. 2015. DNA capture reveals transoceanic gene flow in endangered river sharks. PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1508735112 Abstract

    Pogonoski, J. & Pollard, D. (SSG Australia & Oceania Regional Workshop, March 2003) 2003. Glyphis garricki. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <>. Downloaded on 02 November 2012.

    Pogonoski, J.J., Pollard, D.A. & Paxton, J.R. 2002. Conservation overview and action plan for Australian threatened and potentially threatened marine and estuarine fishes. Environment Australia, Canberra, Australia.

    Pogonoski, J.J. and Pollard, D.A. (2003). Northern river shark. pp 120-121. In Cavanagh, R.D., Kyne, P.M., Fowler, S.L., Musick, J.A. & Bennett, M.B. (eds.), The Conservation Status of Australian Chondrichthyans: Report to the IUCN Shark Specialist Group Australia and Oceania Regional Red List Workshop. The University of Queensland, School of Biomedical Sciences, Brisbane, Australia: 170 pp.

    Stevens, J.D., R.D. Pillans & J. Salini. 2005. Conservation assessment of Glyphis sp. A (speartooth shark), Glyphis sp. C (northern river shark), Pristis microdon (freshwater sawfish) and Pristis zijsron (green sawfish). Version 2. Final Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage

    Taniuchi, T., Shimizu, M., Sano, M., Baba, O. & Last, P.R. 1991. Descriptions of freshwater elasmobranches collected from three rivers in northern Australia In: M. Shimizu and T. Taniuchi (eds). Studies on Elasmobranchs Collected from Seven River Systems in Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. pp 11-26.

    Thorburn, D.C. & Morgan, D.L. 2004. The northern river shark Glyphis sp. C (Carcharhinidae) discovered in Western Australia. Zootaxa 685: 1–8.

    White WT, Appleyard SA, Sabub B, Kyne PM, Harris M, Lis R, et al. (2015) Rediscovery of the Threatened River Sharks, Glyphis garricki and G. glyphis, in Papua New Guinea. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0140075. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140075PDF Open access

    Thorburn, D.C., D.L. Morgan, A.J. Rowland & H.S. Gill. 2004. The northern river shark (Glyphis sp. C) in Western Australia. Report to the Natural Heritage Trust. 24pp.

    Thorburn, D.C., Peverell, S., Stevens, J.D., Last, P.R. & Rowland, A.J. (2003). Status of Freshwater and Estuarine Elasmobranchs in Northern Australia. Report to the Natural Heritage Trust: 79 pp.

    Whitty, J.M., Morgan, D.L., Thorburn, D.C., Fazeldean, T. & Peverell, S.C.1 (2008). Tracking the movements of Freshwater Sawfish (Pristis microdon) and Northern River Sharks (Glyphis sp. C) in the Fitzroy River. In Whitty, J.M., Phillips, N.M., Morgan, D.L., Chaplin, J.A., Thorburn, D.C. & Peverell, S.C. 2008. Habitat associations of Freshwater Sawfish (Pristis microdon) and Northern River Shark (Glyphis sp. C): including genetic analysis of P. microdon across northern Australia. Report to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Australian Government. 75 pp.

    Whitty, J.M., Phillips, N.M., Morgan, D.L., Chaplin, J.A., Thorburn, D.C. & Peverell, S.C. 2008. Habitat associations of Freshwater Sawfish (Pristis microdon) and Northern River Shark (Glyphis sp. C): including genetic analysis of P. microdon across northern Australia. Report to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Australian Government. 75 pp.

    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37018042

    Conservation:IUCN Critically Endangered; EPBC Act Endangered

    Depth:0-10 m

    Habitat:Shallow marine, estuarine and freshwater

    Max Size:251 cm TL

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