Wildlife Fact Sheets

Blacktip Reef Shark


Blacktip Reef Shark

Carcharhinus melanopterus

  • Life Span
    13 years or more
  • Habitat
    Adults venture out to deeper waters, but juveniles prefer shallow, clear waters along reef flats
  • Range
    In tropical and subtropical waters near coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific and eastern Mediterranean
  • Preferred Food
    They prefer small fish, but sometimes eat crustaceans, mollusks and other invertebrates


As the name suggests, blacktip reef sharks like to hang out near coral reefs. Other reef sharks (sharks associated with coral reef ecosystems) include grey reef sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and whitetip reef sharks. You can find blacktip reef sharks swimming shallow waters, sometimes with their dorsal fins above the surface showing off their black tips. You can see how they got their name!

Like other sharks, blacktip reef sharks sport a sheath of tooth-like scales called denticles covering their skin. These help them stay streamlined so they can swim quickly through the water. Denticles also help protect sharks from parasites. Blacktip reef sharks are viviparous, meaning they produce live pups instead of eggs, and birth up to four pups each year. The pups reach maturity around four years old for males and seven years old for females.

While most sharks are solo hunters, blacktip reef sharks are team players. Blacktip reef sharks hang out together and rely on one another to catch prey in packs. When they find a school of fish, they will circle the prey into a tight ball before going in for the kill. There’s even evidence that blacktip reef sharks are social creatures with close friends.

Blacktip reef sharks live and hunt in and around the edges of reefs because there is an abundant supply of food. They’re not as menacing as they might seem. While they might be curious about divers swimming in their territory, they are quite timid and easily frightened.

Did You Know?

Blacktip reef sharks can jump fully out of the water during feeding frenzies.

Status and Conservation

Blacktip reef sharks’ habitat in the coral reef is being damaged by ocean acidification, which occurs when the ocean absorbs carbon and becomes acidified. Acidification degrades the physical structure of these reefs, putting the entire habitat and blacktip reef sharks’ food supply at risk. This affects all the creatures living among the reef—not just blacktip reef sharks.

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