Skip to main content

Spinner Shark

Carcharhinus brevipinna

Distinguishing Characteristics

Illustration of a spinner shark showing important characteristics
  • Back is gray-bronze, fading to a white belly
  • Snout pointed with a length equal to or longer than mouth width
  • Anal fin with black tip
  • Dorsal fins, pectoral fins and caudal fin lower lobe also black-tipped
  • First dorsal fin starts behind pectoral fin
  • No interdorsal ridge


Similar Species: Blacktip shark, C. limbatus (first dorsal fin begins over the pectoral fin inner margin; anal fin does not have a black tip). Photo by Pete Cooper/FLMNH


Maximum length 7-8 feet. Females mature at approximately 6-7 years and males reach maturity at 4-5 years (around 5-6 feet for both sexes) and are estimated to live up to 20 years.


Distributed throughout inshore and offshore waters, typically preferring higher salinities, but juveniles have been known to follow the tide into lower portions of bays.  A very active, fast-swimming shark often seen breaching the surface in a spinning motion (where it gets its common name) while in pursuit of prey. Known to form schools and are highly migratory throughout the Northern Gulf of Mexico and along Atlantic coast (Florida to North Carolina).


Feeds primarily on pelagic fishes including baitfish but also eats rays, squid, and octopus.


After approximately 11-12 months of gestation, females give birth every other year near inshore locations. Broods contain 3-15 pups. Size at birth 24-30 inches.

Additional Information

Valuable commercial species with marketable flesh, hide, fins, and liver. One of the most commonly collected sharks in bottom-longline commercial fishery. Fished for sport with trolling tackle and often leap out of the water when hooked. Has been implicated in bites on spearfishing divers resulting in no fatalities. Since spinners are similar looking to blacktip sharks, they may have been incorrectly identified during shark bites.


Recreational Regulations


Image Credit: © Diane Rome Peebles