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Blacktip reef shark

Blacktip reef shark

Not on Exhibit

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Carcharhinus melanopterus

  • Animal Type


  • Diet

    small fishes

  • Size

    to 6 feet (2 m)

  • Relatives

    other sharks, rays, skates; Family: Carcharhinidae (requiem sharks)

  • Habitat

    Coral Reefs

  • Range

    South African coastal waters

Natural History

Blacktip reef sharks patrol their territories in coral lagoons and around the edges of reefs. They often swim in water shallow enough that their triangular, black-tipped top fin sticks out above the surface, presenting a classic image of sharks as portrayed in movies and cartoons.

But blacktips aren't as menacing as they seem. They're curious about divers in their territory, but they're also wary and easily frightened. These small sharks hunt the abundance of fishes that live on the reefs and try to steer clear of people.


Blacktip sharks are often caught and wasted as bycatch from other fisheries. Like many other species of shark, blacktip populations are declining.

Cool Facts

Female blacktip sharks incubate their young for up to 16 months before giving birth. They usually produce litters of from two to four shark pups.

These sharks can supposedly jump over shallow reefs and leap out of water. In Hawaii, some families see this shark as their "aumakua," or guardian spirit, feeding them and rarely killing them.

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