Creature Feature – Whitetip Reef Shark
This week’s featured creature is the Whitetip Reef Shark.
A medium-sized shark species, the whitetip’s name originates from it’s white-tipped dorsal and tail fins. This species prefers caves and coral reefs and unlike some sharks, it does not need to constantly swim in order to breathe. In fact, it is one of the few requiem (sharks of the family Carcharhinidae in the order Carcharhiniformes) sharks that doesn’t have to keep swimming to breathe.
Scientific Name: Triaenodon obesus
Whitetip Reef Shark Fact File
Size: Individuals can grow up to 2m long and weigh up to 18.3kg
Distribution: A common and broadly distributed species, they can be found across the Indo-Pacific, Central Pacific and Eastern Pacific regions as well as off Central America
Diet: They prey primarily on octopuses, crustaceans and reef fish, including eels, snappers, parrotfish and triggerfish
Behaviour: This species is known for using their slender bodies to manoeuvre through caves and crevices throughout their coral reef habitats. They hunt at night and like all sharks, whitetip reef sharks rely on electroreceptors in their snouts to detect the electrical charges of nearby prey. Fertilisation and development of young is internal (viviparous)
IUCN Status: Vulnerable. Once abundant, whitetip reef shark numbers depleted noticeably from 1985 to 2005 due to overfishing in certain areas. They are vulnerable to human activity due to residing in shallow water (where fisheries can catch it easily using gill nets and longlines) and because of the fact that they mature slowly, and have small litters