The species name, galapagensis, is from the location is was first found in, back in 1905 (Galapagos Islands, Ecuador).
Also known as the “grey reef whaler” or “mackerel shark,” in the native Galapagos Islands you may hear locals call it cação (Portuguese), tiburón de Galapagos (Spanish), tollo (Spanish), or tollo-cazón (Spanish).
A defined ranged has not been described due to confusion with other sharks of similar looks.
This is a large shark (can reach up to 3.7 m or 12 ft), with a brown/gray dorsal side and white underbelly. There may or may not be dark markings on their fins- it just depends how the genetics feels that day. A white band on their sides can also sometimes be seen.
Again, depends if the genes are feeling on blessing that shark with an inconspicuous white band or not.
They have a slender body, and a tall (almost straight) first dorsal fin with a pointed tip. They have a broad nose, which is rounded.
The foolproof way to tell these latter two species apart?
Number of precaudal vertebrae.
Yup. You gotta look at the back of its spine from the back of its skull to the base of its tail- and if you look at its spine, it usually renders the shark useless… or dead. Or both. Probably both.
There are about 103-109 precaudal vertebrae (before the caudal tail) in the Galapagos shark, and 86-97 in the Dusky shark.
Now, on to a new topic.
Shark-eat-shark world, remember?
These sharks are one of the known sharks to display threatening gestures to warn competitors or those trespassing in their home territory.
They get sexually mature at around 10 years, with a maximum lifespan of about 24 years. They are viviparous, giving live birth. Their litter sizes vary from 4-16. As mentioned before, the little sharks stay in shallow water as to avoid being someone’s appetizer, and as they grow, they move into deeper water.
They are known to get very excited in the presence of food, something to keep in mind if you are spearfishing and lugging your recent prizes around (pro tip: don’t carry your dead fish around with you). Especially if there are a number of Galapagos sharks present, you may want to not spearfish and leave the water if they start getting too excited.
These are wild animals, after all. You can’t predict their actions with 100% accuracy 100% of the time.
These sharks are assessed as "Near Threatened" by the IUCN. However, fun fact, in Australia and the western Pacific Ocean, they are considered "Data Deficient" due to little information on populations in this region. There is a marine reserve that also has this shark’s range off Lord Howe Island (AUS) and the Kermadec Islands (New Zealand), and it isn’t considered threatened here.