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To see photographs of the Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) click here.

Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)

Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)

All images and text on this page are copyright protected: © 2010 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Carcharhiniformes
Family: Carcharhinidae
Genus: Carcharhinus
Species: melanopterus
Taxonomic name: Carcharhinus melanopterus

There are three species of blacktip shark in Australian waters, all looking almost identical to the untrained eye. The Blacktip Reef Shark is a common species usually found in shallow inshore reefs and lagoons; the other two species are more oceanic in their range.

As its name suggests the Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) has black tips on all of its fins, with larger areas of black on the lower tail lobe and the first dorsal fin. The body colour can vary from grey to yellowish brown with a pearly blaze on the flanks.
Two to four young are born each November. They start life as perfectly formed 50 cm miniatures of their parents and grow to 18 m. Diet consists of reef fish, crabs, shells, squid or anything else that appeals to their palate. In northern Australia 25 per cent of stomach contents were found to be snakes.

This shark is usually seen by waders, snorkelers and divers in very shallow water. As the tide comes in over exposed coral reef platforms it follows the rising waters hunting and feeding as it goes. At times it is in water so shallow that the dorsal and tail fins are exposed like a frame out of a cliched shark cartoon.

On rare occasions waders have been bitten by this species, an accident caused by the shark mistaking a foot or leg as a struggling fish. However under normal circumstances the Blacktip Reef Shark is a curious but inoffensive animal, approaching divers and snorkelers before resuming its search of the reef.

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