Bull sharks are one of the most dangerous sharks in the world. There are many facts about these aggressive sharks. So, let’s get into some bull shark facts.
Carcharhinidae is the family these sharks belong to. They are called bull sharks because they have similar features and behaviors to a bull.
This guide will take you through the most common questions about this exciting shark species.
Let’s dive in.
What size is a bull shark?
Bull sharks are a relatively small species compared to other shark species. Adult bull sharks will mature to a length of around 7-11ft (2.1-3.4m).
Male bull sharks typically reach a length of 7ft (2.1m). Female lemons sharks typically reach a length of 11ft (3.4m). It takes the lemon shark around 9-10 years to mature to this size.
Bull sharks weigh around 200-500lbs (90-230kg). However, the heaviest known bull shark weighed in at 771lb (374kg).
What color is a bull shark?
Bull sharks have grey skin. The color can vary from pale grey to dark grey. The belly of a bull shark fades to a pale cream color.
Younger bull sharks have dark tips on their fins, making identifying juveniles easier. This fades to a duskier color as they mature.
The bull shark has darker skin on top to camouflage against the dark depths. This prevents prey that is above them from seeing them.
When prey is below them, their lighter underside camouflages them against the lighter surface below.
Are male and female lemon sharks different?
The main noticeable difference between male and female bull sharks is that the females are larger.
You may also be able to tell a male bull shark by looking for claspers. Males use these during mating season. They are similar to fins and are rolled up.
How fast is a bull shark?
Bull sharks are typically a fast-moving species. They move on average at 25mph (40.2kph). They can swim at around five mph for short periods of time.
Bull sharks use long pectoral fins to easily glide through shallow waters. These sharks can also be seen leaping from waters when the temperatures rise in the summer.
What sharks are similar to bull sharks?
Many species are similar to bull sharks, including the:
- Lemon shark
- Tiger shark
- Reef shark
Lemon sharks and tiger sharks have very similar shapes to bull sharks. The only way to tell them apart is usually through their skin color. Lemon sharks are also a lot more docile than bull and tiger sharks.
The reef shark is another shark that is similar to the bull shark. Reef sharks are usually brown with a white underside. They are also smaller and faster than bull sharks.
The bull shark is found worldwide in waters except in the Arctic and Antarctica. The reef shark can be found in North and South America, Oceania, and Africa.
How long does a bull shark live?
Bull sharks have an average life span of 16 years. The oldest bull shark lived to 32 in captivity, and it is thought bull sharks can live up to 24 years in the wild.
Little is known about the actual lifespan of the bull shark.
Bull sharks are capable of adapting to captivity, unlike many other sharks.
Are bull sharks endangered?
The bull shark is in the Vulnerable category by the IUCN assessment in 2020. It places them on their red list as a species at high risk of global extinction.
The exact population sizes are unknown. Bull shark populations have been decreasing rapidly, and it’s estimated only 100,000 bull sharks are left.
Are bull sharks rare?
The declining population number makes bull sharks rarer to observe in the wild.
They live in every water except the Arctic and Antarctica, which means they can be found much easier than other species. They live in shallow waters, making them easier to spot.
Threats and predators
Do bull sharks have predators?
Adult bull sharks have no known predators. They are apex predators when they have fully matured. This is likely due to bull sharks being an aggressive shark species.
Other shark species, like tiger sharks and sandbar sharks, will attack smaller juvenile bull sharks as they do not pose as much threat as adults.
The species will cannibalize each other in the womb. This is called intrauterine cannibalism and leaves only one surviving sibling.
What threats do bull sharks face?
A significant threat to bull sharks is entering freshwater, as they must maintain the correct balance of water and salt. Their bodies have adapted to prevent massive water intake by removing excess salts.
Bull sharks are under threat from human hunting. One caught the sharks are used for their meat, oils, fleeces, and hides.
They are also at risk of being caught in left behind equipment from fisheries. Ocean pollution is a threat that has affected numerous species, including the bull shark.
Where do bull sharks live?
Bull sharks are found all over the world in coastal waters. In the USA, bull sharks are most commonly found on the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.
They prefer warm, shallow waters. Bull sharks can live in freshwater locations like rivers and lakes, unlike other shark species, for extended periods.
They can be found across the Atlantic Ocean in the southern parts. This includes Angola, Brazil, and Morocco.
Bull sharks also live in the Indian Ocean. Locations include Australia, India, South Africa, and Vietnam.
Since bull sharks like to live in freshwater, they swim in waters such as the Amazon River and Lake Nicaragua. They also live nearby Ecuador.
Bull sharks use nursery areas as a place they often return to. The location of these sites is the bull shark was born and raised.
Do bull sharks migrate?
Adult bull sharks will migrate. Often this is moving up to the Atlantic coast along the US in summer and back down in fall when the water cools.
Bull sharks also will travel to freshwater lakes and rivers. They are the only shark species that can do this for long periods of time.
They will also migrate back to their nursery grounds to mate and raise their young. Juvenile bull sharks stay in or near their nursery until they reach maturity.
Diet and foraging
What does a bull shark eat in the wild?
Bull sharks are not picky eaters. Their carnivorous diets include plants and algae if nothing else is available.
The bull sharks diet consists of the following:
- Sea otters
- Sea turtles
- Seat bass
Bull sharks hunt alone and make their kills by relying on stealth and speed. They only need to eat a couple of meals a week, around 3% of their body weight.
Bull sharks prefer to consume smaller prey like fish but sometimes hunt dolphins and seals. They will do this when there isn’t anything else available, for fun or practice.
Prey, like shrimp and sea otters, are small enough to be eaten as an occasional snack. Shrimp need to be eaten in large quantities to have nutritional value.
Fish like tuna and mackerel are fatty and full of nutrients for bull sharks. They are large and filling, which suits the bull shark’s large size.
Bull sharks also feed on crustaceans like lobsters and crabs. Their powerful jaws allow them to crack open their shells and eat the meat inside.
When do bull sharks eat?
Bull sharks feed during the day and night. At night in murky waters with low visibility, they rely on their incredible sense of smell to find prey.
Once they have found their prey, they will headbutt and bite it until it becomes exhausted. Another reason bull sharks were named after bulls is due to their tendency to head-butt prey.
How often do bull sharks reproduce?
Bull sharks have a biennial reproduction cycle. That means they have two fertile periods in a year, once in spring and once in summer.
In warmer locations, this reproduction cycle may last a year. The bull shark will mate with various males through this time.
Although a shark will likely only have one litter per year due to the length of its gestational period.
How long are bull sharks pregnant?
Bull sharks are pregnant for 10-11 months.
Some of the eggs will be fertilized in the spring month, and some will be fertilized in the summer months. The fertilized eggs will have a shorter gestation period than those fertilized earlier in the year.
Do bull sharks lay eggs?
Bull sharks do not lay eggs, they are a viviparous species. This means the bull shark grows pups in the female uterus using a placenta for nutrients.
Bull sharks will give birth to live shark pups.
How many babies do bull sharks have?
Bull sharks will give birth to 6 to 8 pups in one litter. The amount a female can give birth to ranges from 1 to 13.
An interbirth interval is required after each pregnancy to allow their eggs to mature and live to recover. This takes one year for bull sharks.
This means that one pregnancy cycle for the bull shark takes two years.
Consider a female that matures at around nine years old on lives, on average, to 16. She will have at most around four pregnancies in her lifetime.
Over her whole life, a female bull shark will have around 100 pups.
When are bull sharks born?
Bull sharks tend to give birth during the spring and summer months.
This ensures that prey population sizes are high and the weather is warmer. This will help their pups survive better than any other time of year.
Where do bull sharks have their babies?
Bull sharks have their babies in subtropical coastal regions. These are often known as nursery grounds.
The area where the bull shark gives birth is essential, as the species will stay there until they mature. They will also often return as adults to the nursery grounds to mate and give birth. However, females are more likely to do this than males.
Nursery grounds such as mangroves improve the survival of the young by providing them with ideal conditions. The roots of the plants provide the baby bull shark with hiding places from predators.
Do bull sharks mate for life?
Bull sharks do not mate for life. They are a polyandrous species which means they can have several sexual partners each breeding season.
Bull sharks are known to give birth to a litter of pups with three or more different males father.
Baby bull shark
How big are baby bull sharks?
A baby lemon shark is around 28 inches (70cm) when they are born. That’s three times smaller than they are at full adult size.
What do baby bull sharks eat?
Baby bull sharks consume the same diet as adult sharks.
Do bull sharks care for their babies after birth?
Baby bull sharks are left to fend for themselves once they are born. Neither the female nor male will care for their young after birth.
The babies will need to find food and shelter for protection. This is why the selection of the nursery ground is so important to ensure the survival of the vulnerable young as much as possible.
Do bull sharks attack humans?
Bull sharks can attack humans. They live in shallow waters and can migrate to rivers, standard locations for humans to swim.
Bull sharks are one of the most aggressive and dangerous shark species. They don’t attack purpose but are very territorial, which leads to attacks.
A total of 121 bull shark attacks have occurred, with 26 fatalities. This makes the bull shark the third most dangerous shark species in the world.
When swimming in known bull shark areas, be cautious of coming in contact with one. Many guides can help you escape a bull shark encounter.
Are bull sharks aggressive?
Bull sharks are known to be an extremely aggressive species. A reason they were called bull sharks is due to their aggressiveness.
They are aggressive due to their need to hunt for survival. It’s also argued that bull sharks have high testosterone levels, the highest of any living animal. Although, this has been proven incorrect.
Bull sharks can be aggressive when mating or feeding. They can also attack the young of their competition.
Are bull sharks social?
Bull sharks aren’t a social species. But they can make friends and avoid others.
A group of lemon sharks is called a school. Bull sharks prefer to hunt alone but can socialize with other bull sharks, making friends and enemies.
What does a bull shark tooth look like?
Bull shark’s teeth are shiny white, and triangular. They are narrow and like a needle, perfect for piercing through the meat of prey.
Their teeth have tapering serrations and flat, broad blades, allowing them to hunt more efficiently. Their teeth are fairly short, measuring around one inch long.
Bull sharks have 50 rows of teeth. They replace each set of teeth every 8-10 days.
A Bull Sharks teeth are not considered to be bones.
Are bull sharks blind?
Bull sharks are not blind, but they have extremely poor vision.
A study found that a bull shark’s eyes aren’t supposed to detect different colors in the water. They only have one cone in their retinas, which detects light and dark. This means they possibly see in black and white.
Bull sharks rely on other senses, such as touch, taste, smell, and sound, to navigate and find prey.
Can bull sharks smell blood?
Bull sharks have a powerful sense of smell. Due to this, if they smell blood, they can smell everything else in the water.
Although bull sharks are attracted to the blood, they are more attracted to the smell of proteins. This is released into the water when prey is being killed.
Their sense of smell is much more potent and will alert them to nearby prey easier than their sight.