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Like other members of their family, they have laterally compressed bodies with bellies covered in tough, scale-like scutes.
They have a single, triangular dorsal fin and a forked caudal fin.
The species was originally identified and named in 1927 as Harengula tawilis by Albert William Herre, the Chief of the Fisheries Division of the Bureau of Science in Manila.
The species was later moved to the more appropriate and taxonomically accurate genus, Sardinella.
They range in size from the small dwarf lanternshark (Etmopterus perryi), a deep sea species of 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.
Sharks are found in all seas and are common to depths of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft).
Modern sharks are classified within the clade Selachimorpha (or Selachii) and are the sister group to the rays.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 survive and be found in both seawater and freshwater.Well-known species such as the great white shark, tiger shark, blue shark, mako shark, thresher shark, and hammerhead shark are apex predators—organisms at the top of their underwater food chain.In literature, Jose Rizal used three dried tawilis in his novel Noli Me Tangere to symbolize the Three Martyred Priests of Bagumbayan (Jose Burgos, Jacinto Zamora and Mariano Gómez).Because of several factors, the species is threatened by overfishing.
Acanthodians are often referred to as "spiny sharks"; though they are not part of Chondrichthyes proper, they are a paraphyletic assemblage leading to cartilaginous fish as a whole.