Largetooth Cookiecutter Shark, Isistius plutodus Garrick & Springer 1964

Other Names: Bigtooth Cookiecutter, Largetooth Cookie-cutter Shark, Large-tooth Cookiecutter Shark, Longtooth Cookiecutter Shark

A Largetooth Cookiecutter Shark, Isistius plutodus, from off Newcastle, New South Wales. Source: Mark McGrouther / Australian Museum. License: CC by Attribution


A rare cookiecutter shark known from very few specimens. Cookiecutter sharks have a modified mouth and pharynx, and highly specialized teeth for gouging out plugs of flesh in surprise attacks on much larger marine animals.

Identifying features:

  • Body cigar-shaped, tapering towards tail
  • Snout short & conical, eyes forward-facing with binocular vision
  • Lips thick, fleshy - suctorial
  • Lower jaw teeth huge, triangular, serrated - proportionately the largest in any living shark
  • Dorsal fins very small, far back on body, fin spines absent
  • Dark brown above with no distinct collar-like band around the gill area.
  • Image of Largetooth Cookiecutter Shark teeth.

    Cookiecutter sharks use their fleshy lips and muscles in the pharynx to suck onto their prey, gripping the prey with their sharp slender upper teeth. They bite into the flesh with their lower jaw teeth and spin around to carve out a deep, circular plug of flesh. A recent paper described a sudden attack by a cookiecutter shark on a long-distance swimmer crossing a channel between two islands in Hawaii (Honebrink 2011).

    Cite this page as:
    Bray, D.J. 2018, Isistius plutodus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Jul 2024,

    Largetooth Cookiecutter Shark, Isistius plutodus Garrick & Springer 1964

    More Info


    Recorded in Australia from the Coral Sea, Queensland, and off Newcastle, New South Wales. Although widespread, the Largetooth Cookiecutter Shark is known only from isolated mostly nearshore localities in subtropical waters of the Western Atlantic and Western Pacific oceans. Depth range from surface waters to 1000 m or below.

    The species is epibenthic to epipelagic, and migrates towards surface waters at night.


    Jaw teeth (upper) 29 rows; (lower) 19 rows. Dental formula (upper / lower) 14 + 1 + 14 / 9 + 1 + 9.

    Body small, cigar-shaped; eyes large, positioned well-forward on head, providing binocular vision; snout short, bulbous, mouth large, lips large, fleshy, suctorial; teeth in upper jaw slender, thorn-shaped, smooth-edged; lower jaw teeth huge, erect, symmetrically triangular with slightly serrate edges.

    Two small close-set spineless dorsal fins set far back on the body; no anal fin; caudal fin small asymmetrical, with a short lower lobe; pectoral fins rounded, pelvic fins very small, smaller than dorsal fins.


    Reaches at least 42 cm TL.


    Body a uniform dark brown in colour, except for a paler brown band under the head from the mouth to the gill openings. Most of the caudal fin and the underside of the pelvic fins (except fin margins) slightly darker than body; hind margins of all fins pale to translucent; black bioluminescent pits sparse and restricted to lower surface of abdomen. 

    The Largetooth Cookiecutter Shark lacks the conspicuous dark collar-like band around the gill region found in Isistius brasiliensis.


    Feeds by gouging out plugs of flesh like the related Smalltooth Cookiecutter Shark. The predatory feeding behaviour of I. brasiliensis is described as "the shark clamps onto its prey’s skin with its jaws and bites down with its sharp teeth on its lower jaw, twisting its body around and gouging out a plug-like piece of flesh. The shark then creates an oral suction with its thick fleshy lips, large tongue and strong throat muscles to suction the piece of flesh out of the prey’s body" (Compagno 1984;  Garrick & Springer 1964).

    Cookiecutter sharks also feed on squids and small bony fishes.


    Very little is known of the biology of this species. It is presumed to be aplacental viviparous (the embryos are sustained by yolk) like other sharks in the family Dalatiidae.


    Of no interest to fisheries, although very occasionally taken in commercial trawls.


    IUCN Red List: Least Concern


    Cookiecutter sharks can apparently replace their whole set of teeth throughout their lifetime.

    Similar Species

    Differs from the Smalltooth Cookiecutter Shark, Isistius brasiliensis, in having fewer and larger teeth, and the second dorsal fin base more than twice the length of the first dorsal fin base. The Largetooth Cookiecutter Shark also lacks the dark coloured band around the body and dark tips on the caudal fin.


    The species name plutodus, is from the Greek ploutos meaning wealth, riches, abundance, and odous, meaning tooth - in reference to the huge teeth in the lower jaw.

    Species Citation

    Isistius plotudus Garrick & Springer 1964, Copeia 1964(4): 679, figs 1-2. Type locality: off coast of Alabama, USA [28°58´N, 88°18´W].


    Bray, D.J. 2018


    Australian Faunal Directory

    Largetooth Cookiecutter Shark, Isistius plutodus Garrick & Springer 1964


  • Best, P.B. & Photopoulou, T. 2016. Identifying the “demon whale-biter”: patterns of scarring on large whales attributed to a cookie-cutter shark Isistius sp. PLoS ONE 11(4): e0152643. Open access
  • Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125. Rome : FAO Vol. 4(1) pp. 1-249.
  • Compagno, L.J.V., Dando, M. & Fowler, S. 2005. A Field Guide to the Sharks of the World. London : Collins 368 pp.
  • de Figueiredo Petean, F. & de Carvalho M.R. 2018. Comparative morphology and systematics of the cookiecutter sharks, genus Isistius Gill (1864) (Chondrichthyes: Squaliformes: Dalatiidae). PLoS ONE 13(8): e0201913. Open access
  • Ebert, D.A., Fowler, S. & Compagno, L. 2013. Sharks of the World. A Fully Illustrated Guide. Wild Nature Press, Plymouth, United Kingdom.
  • Garrick, J.A.F. & Springer, S. 1964. Isistius plutodus, a new squaloid shark from the Gulf of Mexico. Copeia 1964(4): 678-682.
  • Honebrink, R., Buch, R., Galpin, P. & Burgess, G.H. 2011. First documented attack on a live human by a Cookiecutter Shark (Squaliformes, Dalatiidae: Isistius sp.) Pacific Science 65(3): 365-374.
  • Jahn, A.E. & Haedrich, R.L. 1987. Notes on the pelagic squaloid shark Isistius brasiliensisBiological Oceanography 5: 297-309. PDF Open access
  • Kiraly, S.J., Moore, J.A. & Jasinski, P.H. 2003. Deepwater and other sharks of the U.S. Atlantic Ocean Exclusive Economic Zone. Mar. Fish. Rev. 65(4): 1-64.
  • Kyne, P.M., Gerber, L. & Sherrill-Mix, S.A. 2015. Isistius plutodus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T60212A3093223. Downloaded on 07 November 2017.
  • Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Collingwood : CSIRO Publishing Australia 2, 550 pp.
  • McGrouther, M.A. 2001. First record of the large-tooth cookiecutter shark Isistius plutodus from Australian waters. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 46(2): 442.
  • Parin, N.V. 1975. First Pacific Ocean record of the dalatiid shark, Isistius plutodus Garrick and Springer collected near Okinawa, Japan. UO, Japanese Society of Ichthyology 25: 1-3. 
  • Pepperell, J. 2010. Fishes of the Open Ocean a Natural History & Illustrated Guide. Sydney : University of New South Wales Press Ltd 266 pp.
  • Pérez-Zayas, J.J., Mignucci-Giannoni1, A.A., Toyos-González, G.M., Rosario-Delestre, R.J. & Williams, E.H. Jr. 2002. Incidental predation by a largetooth cookiecutter shark on a Cuvier’s beaked whale in Puerto Rico. Aquatic Mammals 28(3): 308–311.
  • Souto, L.R.A., Abrão-Oliveira, J.G.,  Maia-Nogueira, R. & Dórea-Reis, L.W. 2009. Interactions between subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) and cookiecutter shark (Isistius plutodus) on the coast of Bahia, northeastern Brazil. Mar. Biodiv. Rec. 2: e123.
  • Strasburg, D.W. 1963. The diet and dentition of Isistius brasiliensis, with remarks on tooth replacement in other sharks. Copeia 1963(1): 33-40.
  • Zidowitz, H., Fock, H.O., Pusch, C. & Von Westernhagen, H. 2004. A first record of Isistius plutodus in the north-eastern Atlantic. Journal of Fish Biology 64: 1430-1434.
  • Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37020043

    Behaviour:Migrates vertically


    Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

    Depth:Surface to at least 1000 m

    Feeding:Carnivore - an ectoparasite

    Habitat:Epipelagic, mesopelagic, bathypelagic

    Max Size:42 cm TL

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    CAAB distribution map