Blacktip reef shark - Carcharhinus melanopterus


Illustration © Marc Dando

A moderate-sized stocky brownish gray shark with a short, bluntly rounded snout; black and white on tips of first dorsal fin and lower caudal fin lobe.

Light brown or bronze above, white below. First dorsal fin and ventral caudal lobe have a conspicuous black blotch, brilliantly highlighted with white. Other fins have black fin tips. Conspicuous white band on flank.

Most adults are less than 5.25 ft [1.6 m] total length. Males mature at 3 to 3.25 ft [91 to 100 cm] and attain a length of 5.9 ft [1.8 m]. Females mature between 3.15 and 3.7 ft [96 and 112 cm], and may reach a length of 4.3 ft [1.3 m].

Teeth of the upper jaw are narrow and erect with coarse serrations and cusplets, lower jaw teeth are erect to oblique with narrow serrated cusps.

This is the most commonly encountered shark in the tropical Indo-Pacific

Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.


  • Prey – Small fish and invertebrates: mullets, groupers, jacks, mojarras, slipjaws, wrasses, surgeonfish, cuttlefish, squid, octopus, shrimp.

  • Reproduction – Viviparous, with a yolk sac placenta. Litter size ranges from 2 to 4 (usually 4) and pups are 13 to 20 inches [33 to 52 cm] at birth. Pups are born from late winter to early summer following a gestation of (possibly) 16 months.

On flood tide swarms of blacktip reef sharks move over shallow reef flats. They are often seen swimming in calf-deep water with the tips of their dorsal fins breaking the surface.

The blacktip reef shark is often quite inquisitive when divers enter the water, but it can usually be driven off. It frequently becomes aggressive around speared fish, and this may be exacerbated by the presence of competing sharks. In these scenarios Blacktip reef sharks will rush in to take wounded fish or baits.

Danger to humans – This species is responsible for non-fatal incidents involving spearfishermen, surfers, swimmers and waders. Most bites have been on limbs of people wading in shallow water on coral reefs.