Bull Shark

Carcharhinus leucas

Inside Anniston Museum of Natural History’s changing exhibit hall hangs a large, intimidating bull shark. It is one of the many creatures featured in Bites, Pinches, Poisons, and Stings, Anniston Museum’s current temporary exhibit. Aside from the reptile specimens, the bull shark is one of the most misunderstood creatures featured. Sharks are the inspiration for many ocean-related nightmares often playing the role of villain in nautical horror movies. In reality, sharks are the same as many other animals: curious, elusive, and prone to attacking when threatened.

The bull shark inhabits shallow, warm waters. They are sexually dimorphic, meaning female sharks are usually larger. They have stocky bodies averaging 7.5 feet in length. Bull sharks are remarkable as they can survive in salt, fresh, and brackish waters. They regularly swim up the Mississippi River, even as far as Illinois! Because bull sharks favor both freshwater and shallow tropical waters, they are usually responsible for bites and attacks.

Sharks, even the more aggressive species such as the bull shark, are curious and tactile creatures. Given their relatively poor eyesight, sharks rely on their mouths for exploration. On occasion, they confuse humans for prey and attack. Certain sharks are more territorial than others attacking humans who wander into their territory. Humans pose a much larger threat to sharks than sharks do to humans. Humans kill on average 100,000 sharks each year, while sharks kill around ten humans a year. Protecting sharks is essential as they serve vital roles in their ecosystems. Given their only major predators are humans, it is on us to better understand and protect them.

Learn more about these wonderful and necessary apex predators in Bites, Pinches, Poisons, and Stings!