These sharks have an identity theft problem. That is, if you’re not careful, you can get them mixed up with another shark with a similar name and then that shark gets confused for another. If you go diving in the tropics, you’re probably going to see one of the other sharks.
We will be discussing the blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus).
The blacktip reef shark is a light grey/olive, with a creamy belly and white band across their flank. Easily identified by the prominent black markings at the tips of their dorsal fins and edge of their caudal fin, they usually don’t get bigger than 1.6 m (a little bigger than 5 ft). A cosmopolitan animal, they prefer tropical coral reefs of the Indian/Pacific Oceans (hence the name).
Blacktip reef sharks have no documented bites with humans, and instead actively hunt fish, cephalopods, crustaceans and sometimes sea snakes/birds.
The blacktip reef shark mating is absolutely fascinating, with scientists hypothesizing that females release chemical signals for males to follow. Once a female is tracked down, a male will… well, snout goes down there as part of courting. Gestation time for blacktip reef sharks is debated from anywhere of seven months up to sixteen months, although the latter has not been noted and is deemed unlikely. They are viviparous, usually giving birth to a litter of 2-5 pups. Females give birth in nurseries that pups have a high site fidelity to later on in life.
The blacktip reef shark, although sometimes used for its meat, fins and oil, is not targeted by commercial fisheries. Recreational fisheries don’t really pay mind to these animals, either.
Blacktip reef sharks have been assessed as Near Threatened (NT) by the IUCN, on the basis of their low reproductive rate and possible overfishing threats.
ever heard of this shark?
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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