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August Elasmobranch of the Month: Copper Shark

Author: Linda Weiss

Copper Shark

(Carcharhinus brachyurus)

Key Features/Appearance

Copper sharks, also known as bronze whaler and narrowtooth, are large sharks reaching a maximum length of 3.4 meters (11 ft). Coloration on their dorsal side is bronze to olive-gray while their ventral side is white. They have pointed snouts and large eyes with nictitating membranes. The first dorsal fin is relatively large and slightly rounded, while the second dorsal fin is much smaller and located close to the caudal fin. The caudal fin is forked, with the upper lobe significantly longer than the lower lobe. This shark does not have an interdorsal ridge. The pectoral fins are relatively large with pointed, dark tips. The upper jaws of this shark contain 29–35 rows of teeth while the lower jaw holds 29–33 rows. Teeth in both jaws are narrowly triangular in shape, single-cusped and serrated. Adult males’ upper teeth are longer and more finely serrated than those found in juveniles or adult females.

Habitat and Distribution

The copper shark resides in habitats ranging from estuaries and bays as well as inshore and over continental shelves. They’re found at depths from the surface to 100 meters (328 feet). They have a worldwide distribution in the warm temperate and subtropical waters of the Indo-Pacific, Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans.


Copper sharks have a broad diet including but not limited to octopi, squid, mullet, sardines, cuttlefish, tuna, anchovies, jacks, gunards, stingrays and sharks.


This shark species uses placental vivipararous to reproduce. Embryos are nourished from the female through yolk-sac placentas and born alive after an estimated gestation period of one year. Births generally occur in inshore bays between June – January in litters of 7-24 pups (average 15 pups) each measuring 60 cm (24 inches).


The copper shark is listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with a decreasing population trend.


Copper sharks are targets of both the commercial and sport fishing industries. They are also killed commercially as bycatch on longlines and in trawls. They may also be preyed upon by larger sharks.


Florida Museum, University of Florida

Marine Bio

Planet Shark Divers

Shark Research Institute

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2019

Huveneers, C., Rigby, C.L., Dicken, M., Pacoureau, N. & Derrick, D. 2020. Carcharhinus brachyurus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T41741A2954522. Accessed on 07 August 2022.

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