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Whitetip reef shark

Whitetip reef shark

Not on Exhibit

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Triaenodon obesus

  • Animal Type


  • Diet

    octopuses, spiny lobsters, crabs; also may eat bony fishes, including eels and reef fishes

  • Size

    rarely over 5.25 feet (1.6 m)

  • Relatives

    Galapagos, bull, oceanic whitetip, tiger, blue sharks; Family: Carcarhinidae (requiem sharks)

  • Habitat

    Coral Reefs

  • Range

    wide range of distributions in Indo-Pacific, Central Pacific and Eastern Pacific Oceans, also off Central America, usually in shallow areas close to shore on or near coral reefs

Natural History

These easily identified sharks earned their common name from the distinct white tips on their dorsal and upper tail fins. Long, slender bodies allow whitetips to maneuver through crevices and caves in their coral reef habitats.

Coral has hard, rough surfaces, but these sharks actively pursue prey by wriggling through openings in the reefs. Divers sometimes hear whitetips scraping against the coral, but tough skin and protective eye ridges save the sharks from injury. Their bodies are dark gray to brownish and are usually covered with small, dark spots.


Whitetip shark populations aren't in danger, but they live in shallow water in a restricted habitat where fisheries can catch them easily using gill nets and longlines. Additionally, these sharks mature late and have small litters. With increased fishing pressures, this species may become threatened.

Cool Facts

Whitetips forage at night and spend their days resting in reef caves. They're not territorial—many sharks crowd into a cave, usually stacking themselves atop each other. Whitetips usually return to the same cave or crevice every day, sometimes for years. They have a small home range of several square miles where they may stay for months or years.

Whitetips aren't dangerous sharks; they swim away when swimmers or divers approach.

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