Galapagos Shark, Carcharhinus galapagensis (Snodgrass & Heller 1905)

A Galapagos Whaler, Carcharhinus galapagensis, in the Lord Howe Island region, December 2008. Source: Erik Schlogl / License: CC BY Attribution-NonCommercial


Originally described from the Galapagos Islands, this large shark has a slender streamlined body, large first dorsal and pectoral fins and a low ridge along the back between the dorsal fins. The first dorsal fin is very erect with an almost straight leading edge, and originates above the posterior third of the inner pectoral-fin margin. The pectoral fins are long and straight with pointed tips.

These bold and inquisitive sharks are very common around Lord Howe Island, and juveniles are often seen in the lagoon. Large adults can be aggressive and are considered dangerous to humans.

The Galapagos Shark is similar to the Bronze Whaler, Carcharhinus brachyurus, which is not as slender and does not have a very erect first dorsal fin.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Carcharhinus galapagensis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Apr 2024,

Galapagos Shark, Carcharhinus galapagensis (Snodgrass & Heller 1905)

More Info


Found worldwide in tropical and warm temperate waters, especially around oceanic islands and seamounts.

Abundant at Lord Howe Island and Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, and at Norfolk Island. Also known from coastal waters of northern New South Wales, southern Queensland, and off North West Cape, Western Australia.

Galapagos sharks prefer the clear water and strong currents found around oceanic islands, rocky islets and seamounts. They have been recorded at depths to 285 metres.

At Lord Howe Island, juveniles are commonly seen both inside and outside the lagoon - and are rather bold and inquisitive. Divers often see these small sharks aggregating in loose groups near reef edges late in the day.


The teeth in the upper jaw are long, serrated and broadly triangular although slightly asymmetrical in shape. The finely serrated lower jaw teeth are narrower and symmetrical.


Reaches a maximum length of 3.7 m TL.


Brownish-grey above, underside white; edges of fins only slightly dusky. Some individuals have an inconspicuous white band along the lower sides.


Carnivore, feeding mostly on bottom-dwelling fishes and cephalopods, as well as on crustaceans.


Galapagos sharks mature slowly (taking about 10 years), and produce relatively few young.

The species is viviparous (live-bearing) and the developing embryos are nourished by a yolk-sac placenta. Litters of 4-16 pups are born at 60-80 cm TL after a 12 month gestation period.


Heavily fished in parts of its range.


The Galapagos Shark is considered DATA DEFICIENT on the IUCN in Australia and Oceania (western Pacific Ocean), due to a lack of information on populations in this region.


These bold and inqusitive sharks are often attracted to divers, and can become aggressive. The International Shark Attack file records at least two attacks on humans, one of which was fatal.

Similar Species

Differs from the Bronze Whaler, Carcharhinus brachyurus, in having a more slender body and a very erect first dorsal fin with a straight leading edge.


Carcharhinus is from the Greek karcharos meaning 'sharpen', and rhinos meaning 'nose' in reference to the pointed snout. The species name galapagensis is from the type locality - the Galapagos Islands.

Species Citation

Carcharias galapagensis Snodgrass & Heller, 1905, J. Wash. Acad. Sci. 6: 343. Type locality: Galápagos Islands.


Dianne J. Bray

Galapagos Shark, Carcharhinus galapagensis (Snodgrass & Heller 1905)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37018040


Conservation:IUCN: Near Threatened

Danger:Can be dangerous to humans

Depth:0-285 metres

Habitat:Oceanic islands, seamounts

Max Size:3.7 metres

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map