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the web of life in southern Africa

Carcharhinus leucas (Zambezi shark)

(Valenciennes, in Müller & Henle, 1839)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) >.Chondrichthyes > Elasmobranchii > Galeomorphii > Carcharhiniformes > Carcharhinidae

Carcharhinus leucas (Zambezi shark) [Illustration by Ann Hecht ©]


A large, massive, thick-headed greyish shark with a short, broad, blunt snout, small eyes, triangular saw-edged upper teeth, broad triangular 1st dorsal fin less than 3.2 times 2nd dorsal height, no interdorsal ridge, and no conspicuous markings on fins. Underside white, fin tips dusky.


To 3.2 m.


East coast from Cape St. Francis to Mozambique; circumtropical.



Inshore to 152 m depth, tropical bays, beaches and estuaries, also rivers and lakes, and in hypersaline waters of the St. Lucia estuary.


Bears 1 to 13 young. A powerful, omnivorous predator which feeds on a wide variety of bony fish, including mullets, grunters, sea bream, soles, kob, sardines, snappers, Spanish mackerel, rockcod, elf, flatheads, and sea catfish, as well as other sharks and rays, mantis shrimp, crabs, squid, sea snails, mammalian carrion, sea turtles, and occasionally garbage.

Human Impact

Potentially dangerous, several attacks on bathers attributed to it in Natal. Steals fish from divers in Natal, prized by big-game anglers and regularly taken by the anti-shark nets.

Text by Leonard J.V. Compagno, David A. Ebert and Malcolm J. Smale