These sharks have pointed snouts, spindle-shaped bodies, and gigantic gill openings. The first dorsal fin is large, high, stiff and angular or somewhat rounded. The second dorsal and anal fins are minute. The caudal peduncle has a couple or less distinct keels. The teeth are gigantic. The fifth gill opening is in front of the pectoral fin and spiracles are sometimes absent. They are heavily-built sharks, sometimes weighing nearly three times as much as sharks of comparable length from other families. Many in the family are among the fastest-swimming fish, although a few like the massive Carcharodon are slower due to their great size.
Genera and species
The family contains five living species in three genera:
- Genus Carcharodon Smith, 1838
- Genus Isurus Rafinesque, 1810
- Genus Lamna Cuvier, 1816
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