Creature Feature: Blacktip Reef Shark

The blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) is one of the most common sharks in the nearshore waters of the tropical and subtropical Indo-Pacific. This shark is pale grayish-brown on the dorsal side and white on the ventral side. All its fins have black tips highlighted by lighter-colored borders. Younger sharks usually stay on shallow, sandy flats while older sharks are usually found around reef ledges and near drop-offs. It feeds mostly on small bony fishes but also feeds on squid, octopus, shrimp, sea snakes, and seabird chicks that fall into the water.

The blacktip reef shark averages 1.6 meters in length but may grow up to 1.8 to 2 meters. Like most sharks, it doesn’t have cone cells in its retinas, thus limiting its ability to distinguish colors and fine details. Instead, its vision is adapted to sensing movement or contrast under low light conditions.The blacktip reef shark gets more excited when in the company of other blacktips, sometimes even getting into a feeding frenzy! It is generally timid, skittish, and non-aggressive towards humans unless provoked by food (so don’t feed the fish!).

Even though this species is relatively common and widespread, overfishing of this slow-reproducing shark has led to population decline in some areas. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the blacktip reef shark as Near Threatened.

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