Species: C. leucas
Common Names: Bull Shark, Zambezi Shark, Lake Nicaragua Shark
Bull sharks are coastal animals that hunt near shore. They live in warm and shallow waters in oceans throughout the world. They eat mostly fish and other sharks, sometimes even other bull sharks. They may also eat stingrays, sea turtles, sea birds, and dolphins.
They typically hunt in cloudy, less clear waters to hide from their prey, and will feed on most animals they encounter. They will often bump into prey first, and then follow this with a bite.
Bull sharks are one of the few shark species that can survive in both fresh and salt water. They can be encountered in rivers and canals, as well as non-landlocked lakes. Bull sharks have been recorded in Australia’s Brisbane River, the Amazon River in South America, and in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Tigris Rivers in Asia. In North America, they have been observed in Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, the Mississippi River as far as Illinois, and the Potomac River in Maryland.
Bull shark pregnancies last about a year, and they may give birth to between one and 13 babies. They are viviparous, meaning the young are born live. The young are just over two feet long at birth.
Males reach maturity at around 15 years old, while females reach it a bit later, around 18.
The bull shark is a stocky, heavily built shark that can grow to over 8 feet long and weigh nearly 300 pounds (although in rare cases they can weigh over 800 pounds). They get their name from their stout, muscular build, as well as their demeanor, which is unpredictable and prone to aggression, like a bull.
This shark has a wide, flattened snout and a mouth full of triangular, sharp teeth. Aside from its thick build, its body shape and design is similar to that of other “requiem” sharks, such as the gray reef shark, the blacktip reef shark, and the oceanic whitetip shark.
Bull sharks have been around for millions of years, since the Miocene Epoch.
Due to their preference for shallow and murky waters to hunt in, bull sharks are more likely than most other shark species to be encountered by human swimmers. Because of their aggressive nature, they are one of the three most dangerous shark species (along with the great white and tiger shark) and bull sharks are believed to be responsible for many unprovoked attacks on people.
The bull shark has been proposed as the species responsible for a series of shark attacks on the Jersey Shore in 1916, due to the fact that some of the attacks occurred in brackish and fresh water. These incidents served as the inspiration for the novel Jaws, which focused on a great white shark targeting bathers in a coastal community in New England.
Despite sharks' fearsome reputations, shark attacks remain exceedingly rare in general. However, it is important to always be aware of your surroundings in the ocean and have a healthy respect for the animals that live there.