Grey Reef Shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos (Bleeker 1856)

Other Names: Black-vee Whaler, Fowler's Whaler Shark, Graceful Shark, Graceful Whaler Shark, Gray Reef Shark, Longnose Blacktail Shark, School Shark

A Grey Reef Shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, in the Coral Sea, July 2015. Source: Ian Shaw / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial


A dark grey to bronzy-grey shark, paling to white below, with a distinctive broad black margin along the entire posterior edge of the caudal fin, a grey dorsal fin grey with or without an irregular white edge, and dusky to black tips on the second dorsal, anal, pectoral and pelvic fins. 

A dangerous shark, especially when threatened, which has been implicated in numerous attacks on humans.

Video of a female Grey Reef shark having her teeth cleaned by cleaner wrasse in the Maldives.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jul 2024,

Grey Reef Shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos (Bleeker 1856)

More Info


Carnarvon, Western Australia, to Bundaberg, Queensland; also in the Lord Howe Island region and Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea, and at Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical Indo-West Pacific, from the Red Sea and East Africa, to Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands.

Inhabits inshore and offshore reefs, usually on outer slopes, near drop-offs and reef channels with strong currents near the outer edges of reefs. 


The Grey Reef Shark has no interdorsal ridge running between the first and second dorsal fins.


Carnivore - typically feeds mostly on fishes, as well as consuming molluscs (squids, octopuses) and crustaceans.


Males mature at 120-140 cm TL, and females at about 125 cm TL. The Grey Reef Shark is aplacental viviparous - the embryos are nourished with a yolksac placenta inside the mother. Females give birth to 1-6 pups after a gestation period of about 12 months. The pups are 45-60 cm in length at birth.


Taken in tropical fisheries throughout its range, although considered valuable for dive tourism.


Grey Reef Sharks are territorial and dangerous. They show characteristic erratic threat behaviour when approached or harassed by divers (see diagram in image gallery). Threat displays may culminate in attacks on divers.

The display, a response to a potential threat, consists of the shark raising its snout, dropping its pectoral fins, arching its back, and curving its body laterally. While holding this posture, the shark swims with a stiff, exaggerated side-to-side motion, sometimes combined with rolls or figure-8 loops. The intensity of the display increases if the shark is more closely approached or if obstacles are blocking its escape routes, such as landmarks or other sharks. If the diver persists, the shark will either retreat or launch a rapid open-mouthed attack, slashing with its upper teeth (Martin 2007). 

Similar Species

Sometimes confused with the Blacktip Reef shark, Carcharhinus melanopterus, which has a distinct black tip on all fins, including the first dorsal fin.

Species Citation

Carcharias (Prionodon) amblyrhynchos Bleeker, 1856, Natuur. Tijdschr. Neder. Indië 10: 467. Type locality: near Solombo Island, Java Sea.


Bray, D.J. 2019


Australian Faunal Directory

Grey Reef Shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos (Bleeker 1856)


Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp. 

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21.

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp.

Barnett A, Abrantes KG, Seymour J, Fitzpatrick R (2012) Residency and spatial use by reef sharks of an isolated seamount and its implications for conservation. PLoS ONE 7: e36574. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036574.

Blaber, S.J.M., D.T. Brewer & A.N. Harris. 1994. Distribution, biomass and community structure of demersal fishes of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. Aust. J. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 45(3): 375-396. 

Bleeker, P. 1856. Carcharias Prionodon amblyrhynchos, eene nieuwe haaisoort, gevangen nabij het eiland Solombo. Natuurwetenschappelijk Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch Indië 10: 467-468.

Ceccarelli, D., Choat, J.H., Ayling, A.M., Richards, Z., van Herwerden, L., Ayling, A., Ewels, G., Hobbs, J. –P. & Cuff, B. 2008. Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve Marine Survey – 2007. Report to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts by C&R Consulting and James Cook University. 80 pp.

Coleman, N. 1981. Australian Sea Fishes North of 30°S. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 297 pp.

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

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. & Niem, V.H. 1998. Family Carcharhinidae. pp. 1312-1360 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 2 687-1396 pp.

Economakis, A.E. & Lobel, P.S. 1998. Aggregation behavior of the grey reef shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, at Johnston Atoll, Central Pacific Ocean. Environmental Biology of Fishes 51: 129–139. doi:10.1023/A:1007416813214

Fowler, S.L., Cavanagh, R.D., Camhi, M., Burgess, G.H., Cailliet, G.M., Fordham, S.V., Simpfendorfer, C.A. and Musick, J.A. (comps and eds). 2005. Sharks, Rays and Chimaeras: The Status of the Chondrichthyan Fishes. Status Survey. pp. x + 461. IUCN/SSC Shark Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2 (Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island)

Francis, M.P. & Randall, J.E. 1993. Further additions to the fish faunas of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 118-135 figs 1-22 pls 1-4 

Frisch AJ, Ireland M, Rizzari JR, Lönnstedt OM, Magnenat KA, Mirbach CE, Hobbs J-PA (2016) Reassessing the trophic role of reef sharks as apex predators on coral reefs. Coral Reefs 35(2): 459–472. DOI:10.1007/s00338-016-1415-2 Abstract

Garrick, J.A.F. 1982. Sharks of the genus Carcharhinus. National Marine Fisheries Service (U.S.). Technical Report 445: 1-194 figs 1-83

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp.

Heupel, M.R. & Simpfendorfer, C.A. 2014. Importance of environmental and biological drivers in the presence and space use of a reef‑associated shark. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 496: 47-57. 

Heupel MR, Simpfendorfer CA, Fitzpatrick R (2010) Large-scale movement and reef fidelity of grey reef sharks. PLoSONE 5(3): e9650. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009650.

Johnson, R.H. & Nelson, D.R. 1973. Agonistic display in the gray reef shark, Carcharhinus menisorrah, and its relationship to attacks on man. Copeia 1973: 76-84.

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls.

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

Marges, J. 1998. List of Norfolk Island fish species. Bounty Divers, Norfolk Island.

Martin, R.A. 2007. A review of shark agonistic displays: comparison of display features and implications for shark-human interactions. Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology 40(1): 3–34.

Momigliano, P., Harcourt, R., Robbins, W.D. & Stow, A. 2015. Connectivity in grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) determined using empirical and simulated genetic data. Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 13229 (2015) doi:10.1038/srep13229 Open Access

Nelson, D.R. 1981. Aggression in sharks: Is the gray reef shark different? Oceanos 24: 45-55.

Oxley, W.G., Ayling, A.M., Cheal, A.J. & Osborne, K. 2004. Marine surveys undertaken in the Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve, December 2003. Townsville : Australian Institute of Marine Sciences 64 pp.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Robbins, W.D. 2006. Abundance, demography and population structure of the grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and the white tip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) (Fam. Carcharhinidae). PhD thesis, James Cook University.

Robbins, W.D., Hisano, M., Connolly, S.R., & Choat, J.H. 2006. Ongoing collapse of coral reef shark populations. Current Biology 16(23): 2314–2319. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.09.044

Russell, B.C. & Houston, W. 1989. Offshore fishes of the Arafura Sea. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 6(1): 69-84.

Salini, J.P., Blaber, S.J.M. & Brewer, D.T. 1992. Diets of sharks from estuaries and adjacent waters of the North-eastern Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 43: 87-96.

Smale, M.J. 2009. Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T39365A10216946. Downloaded on 18 December 2018.

Stevens, J.D. & McLoughlin, K.J. 1991. Distribution, size and sex composition, reproductive biology and diet of sharks from northern Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 42: 151-199.

Vianna, G.M.S., Meekan, M.G., Meeuwig, J.J. & Speed, C.W. 2013. Environmental Influences on Patterns of Vertical Movement and Site Fidelity of Grey Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) at Aggregation Sites. PLoS ONE 8(4): e60331. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060331

Wetherbee, B.M., Crow, G.L. & Lowe, C.G. 1997. Distribution, reproduction and diet of the gray reef shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos in Hawaii. Marine Ecology Progress Series 151: 181-189.

White, W.T., P.R. Last, J.D. Stevens, G.K. Yearsley, Fahmi & Dharmadi. 2006. Economically important sharks and rays of Indonesia. [Hiu dan pari yang bernilai ekonomis penting di Indonesia]. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra, Australia.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37018030

Conservation:IUCN Near Threatened

Danger:Dangerous to humans

Depth:0-280 m

Fishing:Commercial fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:250 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map