Graceful shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchoides)

GenusCarcharhinus (1)
SizeMaximum male length: 167 cm (2)
Maximum female length: 140 cm (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Despite a widespread range, the graceful shark is a rarely encountered, elusive species. Known only from specimens and a few sightings, the graceful shark displays the typical shark form with a powerful, streamlined body, a large dorsal fin, and dark grey upperparts, fading into white on the underside (2) (3). Very similar in appearance to a number of related species, the graceful shark is distinguished by a wedge-shaped, pointed snout and a stout mid-body, with black-tipped fins. The eyes are large and conspicuous, and relatively large gill slits sit above large, blunt-tipped pectoral fins (2) (3). A prominent white band runs down the length of the body towards the well developed, dusky caudal fin that propels the shark through the water in a powerful, yet elegant motion (2).

Found throughout the tropical waters of the Indo-West Pacific, the graceful shark has a widespread range, from Australia, through Southeast Asia, India and Sri Lanka to the Gulf of Aden (2). 

Very little is known about the habitat requirements of the graceful shark. However, in common with related species, it probably inhabits both coastal and pelagic waters, up to a depth of around 50 metres (3).

In common with most sharks, the graceful shark is an aggressive predator, feeding largely on bony fishes, such as jacks and mackerel, but occasionally on other elasmobranchs and large crustaceans, dwelling on or near the ocean floor (1). Prey is located using acute eyesight, a keen sense of smell, and specialised organs around the head that detect electric vibrations. The prey is captured in sharp, serrated teeth, after a sudden, sideways snap of the crushing jaw. Although high-up the food chain, the graceful shark may itself fall prey to other sharks, such as the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) and the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) (4). 

Very little is understood about the breeding biology of the graceful shark. However, this viviparous shark appears to mate in January and February, with one to nine well-developed, live young born after a gestation period of nine to ten months. It is possible that pregnant females travel to nursery grounds to give birth, with the young sharks developing in shallow coastal waters offering safety from predators. The young sharks reach maturity at around 110 to 115 centimetres in length (1). 

Despite the fearsome reputation of many large sharks, few are considered to be dangerous. The graceful shark is harmless to humans and, as with other shark species, the real cause for concern is the threat posed to the graceful shark by humans (3) (5).

Not considered a favourable fishing target, the graceful shark has avoided the intensive fishing pressures that have plagued many other shark populations. Shark fishing is strictly regulated in northern Australia, where the graceful shark represents only 1.5 percent of the total shark catch (1). However, fishing pressures may be more intense elsewhere in the species’ range and it is reported to be caught in Sri Lanka, India and the Gulf of Thailand. Fisheries are often driven by the demand for shark fins in Southeast Asia, where they are considered a delicacy (6). But, in common with most other sharks, the greatest threat to the graceful shark is probably accidental bycatch in longline and gillnet fisheries, and there is growing concern about the effect this is having on the population (1).

Despite its elusive reputation, the graceful shark is probably still abundant and widespread (1). However, as there are no binding international treaties for the management of sharks yet in place, careful fisheries management and measures to protect marine habitats are required to ensure the graceful shark continues to thrive in our tropical oceans (1) (7).

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  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2010)
  2. Compagno, L.J.V. (1984) FAO species catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis, Rome.
  3. The Shark Foundation (February, 2010)
  4. Bannister, D.R.K. (1993) The Book of the Shark. New Burlington Books, London.
  5. Save Our Seas (February, 2010)
  6. Marine Species Identification Portal (February, 2010)
  7. Spiegel, J. (2001) Even Jaws deserves to keep his fins: outlawing shark finning throughout global waters. Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, 24: 409-438. Available at: