The small shark is named for its distinct black-tipped fins. Not to be confused with the blacktip shark, a larger species with similar fin coloration, the blacktip reef shark can be found in shallow inshore waters throughout the Indo-Pacific, including coral reefs, reef flats and near drop offs. It may be seen in mangrove areas and even freshwater environments near to shore, moving in and out with the tide. The blacktip reef shark feeds primarily on fish, including many common reef fishes, but will also consume crustaceans, mollusks, and even snakes!
  • Size

    6.6 feet (200 cm)
  • Diet

    Fish, but also feeds on crustaceans, cephalopods and other mollusks
  • Range

    Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea and East Africa to the Hawaiian Islands and south to French Polynesia
  • Habitat

    Shallow inshore waters on coral reefs, in the intertidal zone (reef flats) and near reef drop-offs

Physical Characteristics

Size

  • Blacktip reef shark reaches a maximum size of 6.6 feet (200 cm).
  • The maximum recorded weight is 30 lbs. (13.6 kg).

Body Composition

  • A smaller shark with a rounded snout and distinct black tipped fins.

Color

  • Blacktip reef shark exhibits counter-shading, being gray to gray-brown on the upper body and white ventrally.
  • Also displays a conspicuous white band on its flanks, which extends rearward to the pelvic fins.

 

Animal Fact

This smaller shark is often seen cruising just below the surface, with only its dorsal fin showing above. It has been known to jump completely out of the water!

Diet / Feeding

Diet

  • Blacktip reef shark prefers fish, but also feeds on crustaceans, cephalopods and other mollusks.
  • Common prey includes surgeonfish and mullet. In inshore mangrove areas, this shark will also consume snakes.

Feeding Behaviors

  • Has long, thin, serrated teeth, which help in eating reef fish.

Range / Habitat

Range

  • Occurs in the Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea and East Africa to the Hawaiian Islands and south to French Polynesia. It also has moved into the eastern Mediterranean through the Suez Canal.

Habitat

  • Found in shallow inshore waters on coral reefs, in the intertidal zone (reef flats) and near reef drop-offs. Also found in mangrove areas, moving in and out with the tide. Has been observed in fresh water, but not in tropical lakes and rivers far from the sea.
  • Usually found in depths 65 to 246 feet (20-75 m).

Reproduction & Growth

  • Female blacktip reef shark produces two to four pups, measuring 1.5 to 1.7 feet (46-52 cm), after an 8-16-month gestation period, which is thought to vary due to water temperature.

Additional Information

  • This shark cruises in very shallow water with its dorsal (top) fin often extending above the surface. It has been known at times to jump completely out of the water while in the shallows.
  • Blacktip reef shark may become aggressive in areas where spear fishing is common.
  • It is regularly caught by inshore fisheries and is vulnerable to depletion because of its small litter size and long gestation period. It is generally sold as fillets, its fins are valued for shark-fin soup and the liver as a source of oil.
  • This species is found singly or in small groups.
  • Blacktip reef shark is not to be confused with the blacktip shark, which is a different species.

Sources

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