Sharks range in size from the small dwarf lanternshark (Etmopterus perryi), a deep sea species that is only 17 centimetres (6.7 in) in length, to the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), the largest fish in the world, which reaches approximately 12 metres (40 ft) in length. They are found in all seas and are common to depths up to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). They generally do not live in freshwater, although there are a few known exceptions, such as the bull shark and the river shark, which can be found in both seawater and freshwater. Sharks have a covering of dermal denticles that protects their skin from damage and parasites in addition to improving their fluid dynamics. They have numerous sets of replaceable teeth.
The Galapagos shark, Carcharhinus galapagensis, is a species of requiem shark, family Carcharhinidae, found worldwide. This species favors clear reef environments around oceanic islands, where it is often the most abundant shark species. A large species that grows to 3.7 m (12 ft), the Galapagos reef shark has a typical fusiform "reef shark" shape and is very difficult to distinguish from the dusky shark (C. obscurus) and the grey reef shark (C. amblyrhynchos). An identifying character of this species is its tall first dorsal fin, which has a slightly rounded tip and originates over the rear tips of the pectoral fins.
Galapagos sharks are active predators often encountered in large groups. They feed mainly on bottom-dwelling bony fishes and cephalopods; larger individuals have a much more varied diet, consuming other sharks, marine iguanas, sea lions, and even garbage. As in other requiem sharks, reproduction is viviparous, with females bearing litters of 4–16 pups every 2–3 years. The juveniles tend to remain in shallow water to avoid predation by the adults. Galapagos sharks are bold and have behaved aggressively towards humans, and are thus regarded as dangerous. The World Conservation Union has assessed this species as Near Threatened, as it has a slow reproductive rate and there is heavy fishing pressure across its range.