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Blacktip Reef Shark

Carcharhinus melanopterus

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.

blacktip reef shark

Robin Riggs

SPECIES IN DETAIL

Blacktip Reef Shark

Carcharhinus melanopterus

CONSERVATION STATUS: Near threatened

CLIMATE CHANGE: Vulnerable

At the Aquarium

Our blacktip reef sharks are found in Shark Lagoon.

Geographic Distribution

Tropical Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea to Hawaii

Habitat

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.

Size

These sharks are not very large. They seldom exceed 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length. They range from 3 or 4 feet (91 centimeters to 1.2 meters) with a maximum length of 6.5 feet (2 meters).

Diet

Daytime hunters, they feed in small groups preying mostly on tropical reef fishes and cephalopods. Blacktips have been observed working in coordination to drive schools of mullets close to the shoreline, making feeding easier. They will also eat crustaceans, although they prefer reef fish and cephalopods.

Reproduction

This shark is viviparous. The yolk sac is attached by a placenta. Two to four pups are born after a gestation period of seven to sixteen months, depending on geographic location. The gestation period for those around the Northern portion of Australia is generally seven to nine months, while those inhabiting the areas of the Indo-Pacific Islands have a longer gestation period. The female has twp functional uteruses that are divided for each individual embryo. The pups are 33-50 cm (13-20 in) at birth, depending on locale.

Behavior

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.

Adaptation

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.

Conservation

Blacktips are listed as near threatened due to overfishing. Blacktip reef sharks are caught for their fins, liver, meat, and oil. Due to their slow reproductive rate, the population is declining worldwide. They rely heavily on healthy coral reefs, which are drastically diminishing worldwide.

Special Notes

Although not common, blacktips have been sighted in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, having traveled there via the Suez Canal.

SPECIES IN DETAIL | Print full entry

Blacktip Reef Shark

Carcharhinus melanopterus

CONSERVATION STATUS: Near threatened

CLIMATE CHANGE: Vulnerable

Our blacktip reef sharks are found in Shark Lagoon.

Tropical Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea to Hawaii

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

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 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length. They range from 3 or 4 feet (91 centimeters to 1.2 meters) with a maximum length of 6.5 feet (2 meters).

Daytime hunters, they feed in small groups preying mostly on tropical reef fishes and cephalopods. Blacktips have been observed working in coordination to drive schools of mullets close to the shoreline, making feeding easier. They will also eat crustaceans, although they prefer reef fish 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 seven to sixteen months, depending on geographic location. The gestation period for those around the Northern portion of Australia is generally seven to nine months, while those inhabiting the areas of the Indo-Pacific Islands have a longer gestation period. The female has twp functional uteruses that are divided for each individual embryo. The pups are 33-50 cm (13-20 in) at birth, depending on locale.

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 listed as near threatened due to overfishing. Blacktip reef sharks are caught for their fins, liver, meat, and oil. Due to their slow reproductive rate, the population is declining worldwide. They rely heavily on healthy coral reefs, which are drastically diminishing worldwide.

Although not common, blacktips have been sighted in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, having traveled there via the Suez Canal.