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AquaticBlacktip Reef Shark

Carcharhinus melanopterus Cartilaginous FishesSharks

Aquarium of the Pacific - Online Learning Center - Species Print Sheet

AquaticBlacktip Reef Shark

(Carcharhinus melanopterus)Cartilaginous Fishes • Sharks

Blacktip Reef Shark
Photo taken at the Aquarium's Shark Lagoon | © Aquarium of the Pacific and K. Leonard
Blacktip Reef Shark
Photo taken at the Aquarium's Shark Lagoon | © Aquarium of the Pacific and K. Leonard

Species Overview

The blacktip reef shark is a common inhabitant of many tropical reef communities, frequently observed in relatively shallow water. Considered a harmless shark and unaggressive, it is curious and will investigate things that are not common to its habitat. Although neither a solitary or schooling fish, it is frequently seen in small aggregations, especially when feeding.

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Species In-Depth | Print full entry

At the Aquarium

Our blacktip reef sharks are found in the Tropical Pacific Gallery’s Tropical Reef exhibit.

Geographic Distribution

Tropical Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea to Hawaii


Blacktips are very common in coral reefs and tropical shallow lagoons.

Physical Characteristics

Blacktip reef sharks have a fusiform body and a short, rounded, blunt snout with an arched down-turned mouth filled with long sharp serrated teeth. The first dorsal fin is tall. The pectoral fins are narrow and sickle-shaped with a pointed tip. The caudal fin is asymmetrical with an elongated top lobe.

Their body is a grayish-blue color with conspicuous white streaks on the sides. There are distinct black markings on the ends of their fins, particularly the first dorsal and caudal fins.


These sharks are not very large. They seldom exceed 1.8 m (6 ft) in length.


Daytime hunters, they feed in small groups preying mostly on tropical reef fishes and cephalopods.


This shark is viviparous. The yolk sac is attached by a placenta. Two to four pups are born after a gestation period of about 16 months. The pups are 33-50 cm (13-20 in) at birth.


Blacktips are not aggressive sharks, but they are curious and will approach divers and snorkelers. By tagging these sharks, scientists have found that they rarely migrate very far from a given area. They like shallow water around reefs and will sometimes jump over coral, coming right out of the water. These leaps are frequently sighted on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.


The blacktip reef shark has long, thin, serrated teeth suited for its diet of reef fish. The teeth are located in rows, which rotate after teeth become worn down or broken off. The first two rows are used in obtaining prey; the other rows function as reserves that rotate into place when they are needed.


Blacktips are not in imminent danger or threat of extinction. However, as residents of coral reefs , they rely heavily on the health and survival of coral reefs that are drastically diminishing worldwide.

Additional Images

Blacktip Reef Shark
Photo taken in the Mariana Islands | Courtesy of NOAA's NMFS