Reef shark

Species Profile

Name: there are four species of sharks that are known commonly as reef sharks: blacktip reef sharkCaribbean reef sharkgrey reef shark, and whitetip reef shark.

Appearance: reef sharks are characterised by streamlined bodies; broad, rounded snouts; and large eyes. Blacktips are easily identified by the prominent black tips on their fins. Caribbean reef sharks have dusky-coloured fins without markings. Grey reef sharks can be distinguished by their plain or white-tipped dorsal fins and dark tips on other fins. While whitetips have distinctive bright white spots on their fins.

Size: blacktips and whitetips typically reach around 1.6 metres long, grey reef sharks around 1.9 metres, and the larger Caribbean reef shark around 2.5 metres.

Diet: reef sharks are carnivores, typically feeding on fish, squid, octopus, cuttlefish, shrimp, and sometimes eagle rays or sting rays.

Did you know: Caribbean reef sharks are sometimes seen resting motionless on the sea floor or inside caves – an unusual behaviour for shark species. An investigation of the ‘sleeping sharks’ in the caves of Isla Mujeres, Mexico found that they were not actually asleep as their eyes would follow divers. It is speculated that freshwater springs inside the caves may loosen parasites on the sharks’ skin and produce an enjoyable ‘narcotic’ effect.

Location: blacktips, whitetips, and grey reef sharks are found widely across the Indo-Pacific region, while Caribbean reef sharks are located in the tropical western Atlantic Ocean. All species are typically found in and around coral reefs.

Best places to see reef sharks

According to reports submitted to WildSide, the best places to see reef sharks are as follows:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Great Barrier Reef
Australia
100%
very high
5.0
very good
1
reports
Osa Peninsula
Costa Rica
100%
very high
4.5
very good
1
reports
Galapagos Islands
Ecuador
67%
high
4.8
very good
3
reports
Providencia
Colombia
50%
average
4.0
very good
2
reports