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Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus)

Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus)

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: longimanus
Taxonomic name: Carcharhinus longimanus

Even though the Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) is considered one of the five most dangerous sharks in the world, it is rarely, if ever, seen by swimmers and snorkelers. This shark is only found in offshore oceanic waters with temperatures of over 20°C.

Encounters are usually by anglers over the continental shelf while searching for game fish or by divers visiting outer reefs with deep reef walls. They are also often found with pods of Pilot Whales, following these socially-active mammals in the hope of picking up scraps of squid or fish.

Oceanic Whitetip Sharks are very distinctive. They have a typical fusiform whaler profile but with very long paddle-shaped pectoral fins and a tall dorsal fin, all with broadly rounded tips marked by a blotch of cream or white. The white markings on the tips can also be found on the pelvic fins and both lobes of the tail. These white markings are usually black on young sharks below 1.3 m. Adults grow to 350 cm. Body colour ranges from a bronzy grey to a mottled khaki.

Unlike sharks that live over densely populated reefs, the Oceanic Whitetip must cover a lot of territory to find its food. When food does become available there is no time for the shark to check for potential danger as the prey may just as easily be taken by other predators. For this reason the Oceanic Whitetip Shark charges in very quickly on any possible prey, a habit that makes it dangerous to divers or swimmers and it has been blamed for the deaths of many survivors of ship or plane disasters at sea.

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