American Oceans

Bronze Whaler Shark

Bronze whaler sharks, also known as copper sharks, are a species of requiem shark found in warm temperate and tropical waters around the world.

Whaler Reef Shark

They are named for their bronze-colored dorsal side and are known for their impressive size, with adults reaching up to 3.3 meters in length.

Bronze whaler sharks are efficient predators and play an important role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems.

Taxonomy and Description

a bronze whale shark in the ocean

The bronze whaler shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus), also known as the bronze whaler or the narrowtooth shark, belongs to the family Carcharhinidae within the order Carcharhiniformes.

It is a large, coastal shark species found in subtropical and temperate waters around the world.

The bronze whaler shark can be identified by its broad snout and two dorsal fins, with the first being larger than the second.

It also has long, pointed pectoral fins and a nictitating membrane, which is a translucent eyelid that protects the eye while still allowing the shark to see.

Physical Characteristics

The bronze whaler shark can grow up to 3.3 meters in length and weigh up to 305 kg. It has a slender, streamlined body that is gray or bronze in color on the upper side and white on the underside.

The teeth of the bronze whaler shark are triangular and serrated, and they are arranged in several rows in each jaw.

This allows the shark to easily slice through its prey, which consists of a variety of fish, squid, and crustaceans.

Habitat and Distribution

a side profile shot of a bronze whaler shark underwater

The bronze whaler shark, also known as the copper shark, has a circumglobal distribution in temperate and tropical waters.

They can be found in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and eastern Pacific oceans. They are commonly seen in southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

They have also been reported in the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and the southwestern Atlantic.

Habitat Preferences

Bronze whaler sharks are coastal species that prefer shallow bays, harbors, inshore and estuarine waters, and offshore islands.

They are known to inhabit deep water and subtropical waters. They are often found in association with other shark species such as the dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus) and the sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus).

In southern Africa, bronze whaler sharks are known to use nearshore habitats for core life-history requirements such as reproduction or feeding.

They have a higher exposure to direct fishing and anthropogenic activities due to their coastal distribution.

In New Zealand, juvenile bronze whaler sharks have been found to exhibit site fidelity to temperate inverse estuaries during certain seasons.

Diet and Feeding Habits

two bronze whaler sharks swimming together in the sea

Bronze whaler sharks are opportunistic predators that feed on a wide range of prey items.

They are known to feed on cephalopods, sardines, squid, rays, mullet, bony fish, schooling fish, flatfish, stingrays, and smaller sharks.

Primary Prey

Bronze whaler sharks primarily feed on bony fish and cephalopods. They also feed on schooling fish such as sardines and mullet.

Squid is another important prey item for bronze whaler sharks.

Feeding Techniques

Bronze whaler sharks use a variety of feeding techniques to capture their prey. They are known to use ambush tactics, chasing and biting, and scavenging. They are also known to feed on dead or dying animals.

Bronze whaler sharks are often observed feeding in large groups, which suggests that they may cooperate when hunting.

They are also known to feed at night, which may allow them to avoid competition with other predators.

Reproduction and Lifespan

bronze whaler sharks and dolphins eating fish

Bronze whaler sharks are viviparous, which means that the embryos develop inside the female’s body with a placental connection.

Males mature at around 7-8 years old, while females mature later at around 10-12 years old.

Mating and Gestation

Bronze whaler sharks mate in the spring and summer, and females have a gestation period of around 12 months.

During this time, the embryos develop inside the female’s body with a placental connection.

A pregnant bronze whaler shark can carry up to 20 near-term embryos, with each embryo weighing between 944.55-1308.28 g.

Juvenile Sharks

Once born, bronze whaler shark pups measure around 60-70 cm in length. They grow slowly, with a maximum lifespan of around 40 years.

The slow growth rate and longevity of bronze whaler sharks make them vulnerable to overfishing.

Behavior and Migration

Bronze whaler sharks are known for their social behavior and seasonal movements. Understanding their behavior and migration patterns is crucial for their management and conservation.

Social Behavior

Bronze whaler sharks are known to be social animals, often found in groups of hundreds or even thousands.

They are known to form schools with other shark species such as the narrowtooth shark, cocktail shark, and spinner shark.

These schools are usually composed of individuals of the same sex and size, suggesting a possible social hierarchy.

In addition, bronze whaler sharks are known predators, and their social behavior may be related to hunting strategies.

They have been observed to hunt cooperatively, surrounding schools of fish and attacking from different angles.

This behavior is especially evident during the sardine run in South Africa, where large schools of sardines attract many predators, including bronze whaler sharks.

Seasonal Movements

Bronze whaler sharks exhibit seasonal movements, with some individuals migrating long distances. In South Africa, they are known to follow the sardine run along the coast, moving north in the summer and south in the winter.

This migration is likely related to the availability of prey, as the sardine run is a major food source for many predators.

In New Zealand, satellite tagging has revealed that bronze whaler sharks exhibit complex migration patterns, with some individuals traveling long distances and others remaining in one area.

Some mature females have been observed to migrate from offshore areas to inshore estuaries to give birth in the spring, suggesting a possible reproductive strategy.

Interaction with Humans

Bronze whaler sharks are known to be potentially dangerous to humans, and there have been reports of unprovoked attacks on swimmers, surfers, and divers.

According to the International Shark Attack File, bronze whaler sharks are responsible for several non-fatal attacks in South Africa and Australia.

Fatal attacks by this species have not been reported.


Bronze whaler sharks are commercially and recreationally fished in many parts of the world.

They are often caught as bycatch in commercial fisheries targeting other species. In recreational fisheries, they are targeted for their sport and food value.

The impact of fishing on bronze whaler shark populations is not well understood, but their vulnerability to overfishing is a concern.


Bronze whaler sharks are classified as near threatened by the IUCN. Their conservation status is based on their vulnerability to overfishing and habitat degradation.

They are also affected by human activities such as pollution and coastal development.

The media often portrays large sharks, including bronze whaler sharks, as dangerous and aggressive, which can contribute to negative attitudes towards these species.

Threats and Conservation Status

bronze whalers and dolphins eating fish in the ocean

The Bronze Whaler Shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus) is a species of shark that is found in various parts of the world, including the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the western Pacific Ocean.

The population trends of Bronze Whaler Sharks are not well understood, but the species is believed to be declining in some areas due to overfishing.

In particular, the species is often caught as bycatch in commercial fishing operations, and this can lead to a decline in the overall population.

In addition to overfishing, Bronze Whaler Sharks face threats from other predators, such as Killer Whales (Orcinus orca).

These apex predators can prey on Bronze Whaler Sharks, which can lead to a further decline in their population.

Conservation Efforts

Several conservation efforts are underway to protect Bronze Whaler Sharks. In Australia, the species is protected under the Fisheries Management Act 1994, which sets limits on the amount of Bronze Whaler Sharks that can be caught.

In addition, the Australian government has implemented a Shark Control Program, which uses nets and drumlines to reduce the number of sharks in popular swimming areas. However, this program has been controversial, as it can also catch and kill non-target species.

In New Zealand, the Department of Conservation has implemented a National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, which aims to protect Bronze Whaler Sharks and other shark species.

The plan includes measures to reduce the amount of bycatch in commercial fishing operations, as well as research to better understand the population trends of Bronze Whaler Sharks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are bronze whaler sharks dangerous?

Bronze whaler sharks are known to be aggressive and have been involved in several incidents with humans.

However, they are not considered to be one of the most dangerous shark species and attacks on humans are relatively rare.

It is important to always exercise caution when swimming in waters where bronze whaler sharks are known to inhabit.

What do bronze whaler sharks eat?

Bronze whaler sharks are opportunistic predators and will feed on a variety of prey including fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods.

They are also known to scavenge on carrion. In New Zealand, where they are commonly found, they are known to feed on yellow-eyed mullet, red cod, and squid.

How big do bronze whaler sharks get?

Bronze whaler sharks are a medium-sized shark species and can grow up to 3.3 meters (10.8 feet) in length.

Females tend to be larger than males. They can weigh up to 305 kilograms (672 pounds).

What is the habitat of bronze whaler sharks?

Bronze whaler sharks are found in temperate and tropical waters around the world. They are commonly found in coastal waters and are known to inhabit rocky reefs, kelp forests, and sandy or muddy bottoms. In New Zealand, they are known to inhabit estuaries, harbors, and bays.

Are bronze whaler sharks endangered?

Bronze whaler sharks are not currently considered to be an endangered species. However, they are heavily targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries in some areas and their populations may be declining in those areas.

How do bronze whaler sharks reproduce?

Bronze whaler sharks are oviparous, which means that they lay eggs. The females lay egg cases which contain a single embryo.

The egg cases are typically deposited in shallow waters and are anchored to rocks or other structures. The embryos develop inside the egg cases and hatch after several months.

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