The blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) is the most commonly encountered species of shark in tropical Indo-Pacific reefs. Its medium-sized, streamlined body is brownish-grey, with a white underside. As its name suggests, it has brilliant black fin tips, (particularly distinctive on the first dorsal fin), which are all the more conspicuous against the adjacent white patches. The short snout is bluntly rounded and the eyes are almond-shaped. Running along the flanks is a noticeable white band.
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This powerful swimmer is well known for its tendency to enter incredibly shallow water, and is often found in water only 30 centimetres deep or less, with its distinctive dorsal fin protruding from the surface of the water. It is also found near the bottom or in mid-water in deeper water, singly or in small groups. The blacktip reef shark is not an extremely dangerous species, although it is responsible for several provoked and unprovoked attacks on humans. Many are on people that are swimming or wading on reefs, presumably because they were mistaken for prey. These sharks are more cautious when encountering divers and can usually be driven off.
It feeds on a wide variety of small fish and invertebrates, including mullet, groupers, wrasses, cuttlefish, squid, shrimp.
There are three different methods that sharks use to reproduce, depending on the species. Blacktip reef sharks are viviparous, which means they give live birth after the embryos develop in the mother's uterus. Other species lay eggs, called oviparity, or they retain the eggs inside until they hatch, called ovoviviparity. Reproductive cycles and gestation are both still being studied. Different report show gestation lasting anywhere from 8-16 months and reproductive cycles occurring annually or every two years. Litters contain 2-4 young, who immediately fend for themselves upon birth.
All species of sharks are protected in Maldives.
Humans are responsible for killing millions of sharks every year. Many of these are part of the “bycatch” caught accidentally using fishing equipment intended to catch other fish species. Many others are caught intentionally so that their fins can be cut off, a cruel practice called “finning”. Shark fins are in fact unfortunately still considered to be a delicacy in several parts of the world. After their fins have been cut off, the mortally injured sharks are thrown back into the sea, where they die. For all these reasons, many shark species today are risk for extinction. All species of sharks are protected in Maldives.