The Galapagos Shark ia one of the largest members of the Requiem Shark family, and often spotted when snorkeling or diving at the Galapagos Islands. Despite their scary appearance and considerable size, the Galapagos shark is very rarely aggressive, and often curious and inquisitive with humans. The Galapagos islands are an amazing experience to share the water with sharks, and record some amazing video footage to impress friends.
Read on for everything you ever wanted to know about the Galapagos Shark. Where and When to see them? How to identify them? Plus lots of interesting shark facts and information.
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Scientific Name: Carcharhinus galapagensis
The Galapagos shark is one of the most abundant shark species in shallow ocean waters around the Galapagos archipelago. They are listed on the IUCN red list as Least Concern, with unknown population trend.
Galapagos sharks can be spotted most easily on a live-aboard Galapagos dive cruise, or on dive day tours from Santa Cruz island.
Galapagos shark groups are most frequently spotted around Darwin and Wolf Islands in the far north-east of the archipelago. These islands can only be reached aboard specialist dive cruises. If your budget or time don’t stretch that far then these attractive sharks can also sometimes be found at day dive sites off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. Gordon Rocks, Beagle, Daphne and Guy Fawkes are all good sites to try, although sightings are not guaranteed.
Galapagos sharks are active at the Galapagos islands all year round. Their mating season runs from January to March, so small shark pups appear in the shallows across the archipelago around April / May time.
For many visitors snorkeling or swimming with sharks is one of the very top Galapagos highlights. While we would all love to snorkel with hammerheads, you’ll need luck to find them. The Galapagos shark is a more common species that you might cross paths with. Are Galapagos sharks aggressive? They are potentially dangerous to humans, but there has never been a fatal Galapagos shark attack at the islands. Even in global oceans, International Shark Attack File lists just one fatal Galapagos Shark attack on a swimmer in the Virgin Islands.
So when diving with a Galapagos shark some precaution and care is recommended. They are an inquisitive species, but rarely aggressive. Be on the lookout for agitated shark behavior such as arching of the back, raising the head, or swimming in a twisting figure of eight pattern. Above all divers need to respect their personal space and treat them with due respect.
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The body shape of a Galapagos shark is like the classic shark that most of us imagine from movies: sleek & streamlined, with a tall slightly rounded dorsel fin. Other tell-tale characteristics include a large pectoral fin, wide rounded snout, large circular eyes, and 14 rows of sharply serrated teeth. In color Galapagos sharks are brownish gray on top, white underneath, with a white blended stripe down the side.
In terms of Galapagos Shark size, an adult can grow up to 3 meters in length, and weigh as much as 195kg (average 150kg).
Galapagos sharks love tropical islands (who doesn’t?). You’ll find them hanging out at many offshore coral islands around the globe, including: Hawaii, Pacific Islands like Cook Islands, Bermuda, Virgin Islands, Madagascar & other Atlantic island paradises. They are a migratory species so can easily move around and change location.
They prefer warm tropical waters, with clean reefs and strong currents – this they find in abundance at Galapagos. They are usually spotted at depths of 100 meters or more, over the continental shelf.
Mating behavior of the Galapagos shark can be quite an aggressive affair. Female individuals will often have mating scars from males who bite their gills, fins, and body.
Galapagos sharks are viviparous, meaning that eggs hatch inside the female, and pups are born with already formed bodies. After a gestation period of around 12 months, a litter of 4–16 pups is born. Juvenile Galapagos sharks are immediately independent and feed themselves, but stay in the shallows until big and strong enough to brave the open waters.
Galapagos shark diet usually consists of bottom-dwelling bony fish (eels, flatfish, sea bass, flatheads etc), octopus, crustaceans and mollusks. At the Galapagos Islands they will also hunt larger prey, inclusing Fur Seal, Sea Lions, and sometimes even Marine Iguanas.
In conclusion, the Galapagos shark is quite a common sight for Galapagos divers. They can be quite a treat if they swim up close to check you out, just stay calm and enjoy a truly unique experience!