Species Details

Details of Blacktip reef shark will be displayed below

Blacktip reef shar...   

Common Name: Blacktip Reef Shark
Scientific Name: Carcharhinus melanopterus
Local Name: Falhu'miyaru
Dhivehi Name: ފަޅުމިޔަރު
Animalia  (Kingdom)
Chordata  (Plylum)
Carcharhinidae  (Family)
Carcharhinus   (Genus)

Blacktip reef shark's description

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.

Blacktip reef shark's facts

Dou you know?

  • Many people get confused blacktip reef shark with the blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus).

Blacktip reef shark's Behavior & Ecology

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.

Blacktip reef shark's Feeding

It feeds on a wide variety of small fish and invertebrates, including mullet, groupers, wrasses, cuttlefish, squid, shrimp.

Blacktip reef shark's Reproduction

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.

Blacktip reef shark's Conservation

All species of sharks are protected in Maldives.

Blacktip reef shark's Relationship with Humans

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.

Blacktip reef shark habitat

Most authors agree that Blacktip Reef Sharks range from 30-50 cm at birth. Adults reach total lengths of up to 180 cm and mature between 90-110 cm (Compagno 1984, Stevens 1984, Last and Stevens 1994).

Stomach contents show the primary item of prey to be teleost fishes (Lyle 1987, Stevens 1984, Last and Stevens 1994). Prey items also include crustaceans, cephalopods and other molluscs (Stevens 1984, Lyle 1987, Last and Stevens 1994). Interestingly, the species is also reported to have consumed terrestrial and sea snakes (Lyle 1987, Lyle and Timms 1987). Lyle (1987) also reported that predation upon other elasmobranchs was rare.

Information on reproductive biology is limited and conflicting. Blacktip Reef Sharks are viviparous with a yolk sac placenta and give birth to 2-4 pups (usually four) (Compagno 1984, Lyle 1987, Last and Stevens 1994). In northern Australia mating probably occurs in January and February, with parturition occurring in November (Lyle 1987). This cycle would allow an 8-9-month gestation period, however, Compagno (1984b), Melouk (1957) and Randall and Helfman (1973) list the gestation period for this species as being possibly 16 months. Observations of Blacktip Reef Sharks at the Aldabra Atoll (Indian Ocean) showed mating to occur in October-November and parturition the following October. These animals would therefore undergo a 10-11 month gestation period (Stevens 1984b). Stevens (1984b) also noted that individuals in this area generally breed every other year, but that this may be due to competition for food in the area because of its high shark population.

Blacktip reef shark threats

The Blacktip Reef Shark is not a target of major fisheries, but is regularly caught by inshore fisheries in India and Thailand (Compagno 1984b). It is rarely taken by northern Australian gillnet fisheries because of its shallow habitat (Last and Stevens 1994). Although this species is used fresh and dry salted for human consumption and for its liver-oil (Last and Stevens 1994) it is considered to be of little commercial importance (Lyle 1987). Data concerning the take of this species in artisanal fisheries is scarce, but due to its inshore, shallow water habitat it is likely to be a target of such activities. However, it is common in tropical and subtropical waters and not, therefore, considered to be in any immediate danger of serious population depletion worldwide.

Blacktip reef shark's status