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Reef shark


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Reef Sharks

Reef sharks

Several shark species are called Reef Sharks in every day speech. The Gray Reef Shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, the Blacktip Reef Shark, Carcharhinus melanopterus, and the Whitetip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, are all found around coral reefs in tropical and warm temperate seas in the Indo-Pacific region.

Gray Reef Shark

Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, is gray with a white underside. The trailing edge of the caudal fin shows a distinct black margin, and some Gray Reef Sharks display a white pattern on the leading edge of their dorsal fin. The fin tips are dark on a Gray Reef Shark, except for the tip of the first dorsal fin. The Gray Reef Shark is sometimes confused with the Blacktip Reef Shark, Carcharhinus melanopterus, since they look a lot like each other. The Blacktip Reef Shark does however have a distinct black tip on its first dorsal fin.

The largest Gray Reef Shark known to science was 255 cm. It was unsexed, but most likely a male. The largest female Gray Reef Shark measured was 172 cm. The maximum recorded weight for a Gray Reef Shark is 33.7 kg. We know that they can reach an age of at least 25 years. The reproduction is viviparous, which means that the Gray Reef Shark embryos feed from a yolksac placenta inside the female Gray Reef Shark. The gestation period is roughly 12 months, after which the female will give birth to 1-6 pups. A new born Gray Reef Shark pup is usually 45-60 cm (15.7-23.6 inches).

The Gray Reef Shark is a typically found at or nearby continental and insular shelves. As the name suggests, it is frequently spotted around coral reefs. The deeper regions close to drop-offs to more open water is one of the favourite places for Gray Reef Sharks. They also like to stay in quite shallow lagoons, as long as those are adjacent to areas with strong currents.

The Gray Reef Shark is a curious and social creature. You can often see large groups of Gray Reef Shark at their favourite places around the reef. It is usually not dangerous to humans, but attacks have occurred. Their curious nature can make them a bit investigative when it comes to swimmers and scuba divers. Feeding Gray Reef Shark can be unsafe, since the “feeding frenzy” can make them more aggressive and hurt a human that would normally not be considered prey or a threat. If the Gray Reef Shark turns its body into a somewhat hunching, S-like, position it is usually a sign that tells you that the shark is feeling threatened. Gray Reef Sharks are more active during the night than during the day, and feed on fish, octopus and squids, and many types of crustaceans such as lobsters, shrimps and crabs.

Blacktip Reef Shark

Carcharhinus melanopterus, can be easily distinguished from the similar Gray Reef Shark by its black tipped fins. Below the black tip located on the first dorsal fin you can see black spots followed by a pale white band. The dorsal part of the Blacktip Reef Shark has a light grey or brownish colour, which gradually fades to almost white at the stomach region. The nose of the Blacktip Reef Shark is short and rounded, and the teeth are long and thin. Like many other sharks, the Blacktip Reef Shark is saw-toothed. The largest Blacktip Reef Sharks reach a length of 1.8 metres (6 feet) and can weigh over 45 kg (100 pounds).

The Blacktip Reef Shark is usually found in close to coral reefs, especially near drop-offs. They are often seen swimming along the bottom. The Blacktip Reef Shark seldom swim below 10 m (33 feet), but they are capable of diving down to at least 75 m (250 feet). Blacktip Reef Sharks also like shallow lagoons and mangrove regions. In the mangrove areas, the Blacktip Reef Sharks swim in and out with the tide. They can swim into freshwaters, but dislike being too far from the salty ocean.

Blacktip Reef Sharks will often hunt in large schools along the coastline, and can be seen jumping up over the waters surface during feeding frenzies. They eat fish and rays, but will also prey on other, smaller sharks. They also like octopus and squid, shrimps, cuttlefish, sea snakes and crabs.

The reproductive method for the Blacktip Reef Sharks is vivparous, which means that the fry will feed from egg yolk inside the body of the mother. The Blacktip Reef Shark gives birth to 1-4 pups after a gestation period of at least 8 months. The gestation period will sometimes be up to 16 months. A newborn Blacktip Reef Shark pup is between 33 and 50 cm (13 and 20 inches).

Whitetip Reef Shark

Triaenodon obesus, derives its name from the distinct white tips on the sharks first dorsal and upper caudal fins. Sometimes the other fins have white tips as well. The body of a Whitetip Reef Shark has a dark brown or greyish colour, which fades to lighter colours towards the ventral surface. Some individuals have small dark spots over the entire body. The maximum length of the Whitetip Reef Shark is slightly below 7 feet (2.13 m), but the average length is no more than 5.25 feet (1.6 m). The Whitetip Reef Shark can live for more than 25 years.

The Whitetip Reef Shark feed on chiefly on lobsters, crabs and octopus. It is a nocturnal hunter that feed on bottom living animals that live in crevices and caves. The Whitetip Reef Sharks can hunt prey in very small spaces, since they have a blunt snout and are slenderly built. Their skin is tough and the eyes are protected by ridges. The Whitetip Reef Shark also likes to eat bony fish, such as snapper, triggerfish, eel, squirrelfish, surgeonfish, damselfish and parrotfish.

Since the Whitetip Reef Shark is peaceful and has small teeth is not really a threat to humans unless it is attacked. It will usually avoid venturing to close to swimmers and divers, but can be attracted by food. Some scuba divers hand feed Whitetip Reef Sharks, and accidents can naturally occur during such circumstances when the Whitetip Reef Shark becomes excited and accidentally bites the fingers of the scuba diver. Spear fishing can also attract Whitetip Reef Sharks.

The female Whitetip Reef Shark gives birth to live pups after a gestation period of roughly 5 months. A litter will typically consist of 1-5 pups, and each pup will be 50-60 cm (20-23.6 inches). Mating will occur during varying seasons of the year depending of which region the Whitetip Reef Shark inhabits. The male Whitetip Reef Shark will lie very close to the female, and hold her pectoral fins in his mouth. The male inserts one of his claspers into the genital opening of the female and fertilizes her eggs.

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