- Spiracle present, small and slit-like
- Caudal peduncle with low, rounded, lateral keel
- Snout broad, very short and bluntly rounded
- Upper labial furrows very long, subequal to preoral length
- Sides usually with dark vertical bars (absent in large adults)
- Teeth in both jaws coarsely serrated, one edge deeply notched, the other strongly convex, with basal cusplets
Dorsal surfaces grey with dark, vertical reticulations in newborns, forming vertical bars in sharks up to 300 cm TL, faint or absent in large adults. Fins without markings. Ventral surfaces white.
Maximum size up to ~600 cm TL, (1 record of 740 cm TL); birth size 50–80 cm TL.
Cosmopolitan in all tropical seas and making seasonal migrations in warm temperate areas.
Found both well inshore and well offshore, from turbid estuaries to clear reefs; from the surface to least 150 meters depth.
Categorised as a true scavenger, feeding on bony fish, sharks, rays, crustacean, cephalopods, reptiles (turtles, sea snakes, iguanas), birds, marine mammals, carrion and a variety of indigestible objects. Considered among the most dangerous sharks due to its large size, indiscriminate diet and occurence in shallow water. Often undergoes irregular, unpredictable movements, although sometimes makes seasonal migrations. Length at maturity is 250–350 cm TL and 226–290 cm TL for females and males respectively. Age at maturity for eastern Australian populations is 10–13 years for both sexes. Reproductive mode is viviparous without yolk-sac placenta; females give birth to 18–82 (average 33) pups after a gestation period of 12–16 months. Females breed at least every second year. Maximum age of eastern Australian populations is 33 and 28 years for females and males respectively.
Caught frequently by the shark longline, tangle net and bottom trawl fisheries. Utilised for its fins (high value in adults), meat, skin, jaws and cartilage.
A distinctive species unlikely to be confused with other species in Indonesia.