Caribbean Reef Shark

These sharks are a big part of ecotoursim in the Caribbean.
Caribbean Reef Shark Scientific Classification
Scientific name
C. Perezi
Caribbean Reef Shark Physical Characteristics
Brown, Grey, Yellow, White
14+ years
150 pounds
Caribbean Reef Shark Distribition

Caribbean reef sharks inhabit heat, shallow waters on or close to coral reefs.

This streamlined hunter makes its house within the tropical western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina to Brazil, not often diving deeper than 30 meters. It’s solely not often implicated in assaults on individuals and is a frequent sight close to coral reefs within the Caribbean.

Caribbean Reef Shark Details

  • Sharks don’t have swim bladders; as an alternative, their livers are excessive in fats and assist the sharks keep afloat.
  • Extremely priceless in ecotourism; many shark feeding excursions within the Caribbean function this species.
  • Most scientists agree that Caribbean reef sharks are very important to coral reef communities.

Classification and Scientific Name of the Caribbean Reef Shark

Caribbean reef sharks are one of many least studied of the requiem, or Carcharhinidae household, sharks. Sharks on this household usually have rounded snouts and blade-formed tooth, and reside in tropical or heat waters. Some, just like the bull shark, may even reside in brackish or recent water.

This shark’s genus title is Carcharhinus and it’s a mix of the Greek phrases karkaros, which means sharp or jagged, and rhinos which means nostril.

Figuring out the Caribbean Reef Shark: Appearance and Description

An apex predator within the reef system, the Caribbean reef shark ranges between 6.5 and eight.2 ft lengthy however can develop as much as 9.8 ft lengthy. Typical of requiem sharks, this species is heavy-bodied and streamlined. Its snout is brief, rounded, and vast; the eyes spherical and enormous. Like different sharks, it has a 3rd pair of eyelids, referred to as nictitating membranes, that defend its eyes. The shark has 5 reasonably lengthy gill slits, and the third slit sits above the entrance of its pectoral fin. It has a tall, sickle-formed dorsal fin and a low ridge working from there to the second dorsal fin.

Its dorsal facet varies between grey-brown and darkish grey, whereas its stomach is both yellowish-white or white. This shark additionally has a delicate white stripe on its flanks. The decrease lobe of its caudal fin, anal fin, and the underside of its paired fins is a darker grey, however not strongly marked.

Like different requiem sharks, this one is awfully quick, and its torpedo-formed physique cuts by way of the water with little effort. Caribbean reef sharks are comparatively docile and barely assault people.

A Caribbean reef shark swims with school of jacks.
A Caribbean reef shark swims with college of jacks.

Maui Topical Pictures/

Caribbean Reef Shark Distribution and Habitat

The Caribbean reef shark inhabits the nice and cozy waters of the tropical western Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. It ranges as far south as Brazil, and north to North Carolina, though it’s fairly uncommon north of the Florida Keys.

Shallow waters on and round coral reefs are its favourite areas and this shark is widespread close to the reefs’ outer edges. It often dives to 1,240 ft however spends most of its time in shallow water lower than about 100 ft deep.

Juveniles have a tendency to remain in shallower water and shelter throughout the confines of the reef system. After they’re large enough to depart with out turning into the prey of a bigger tiger or bull shark, they transfer out in the direction of the perimeters of the reef.

This shark has a behavior of resting on the underside of the ocean, or in coral caves; a conduct which earned them the nickname “sleeping sharks.”

Conservation and Inhabitants

The IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species classifies these sharks as endangered. Their inhabitants is reducing as a direct results of each unlawful searching and fishing bycatch. In some areas, these sharks are considerable; nevertheless, this species hasn’t been studied as a lot as different requiem sharks. They’re extra energetic at evening and don’t appear emigrate. Some consider that Caribbean reef sharks assist form reef communities, however extra analysis must be finished.

This species has all the time been fished for meat, liver oil, fishmeal, and leather-based. Nevertheless, in recent times, they’ve grow to be way more priceless as a part of the ecotourism trade. Some estimate {that a} single reside Caribbean reef shark is value $13,000-$14,000 alive versus about $60 useless.

In areas the place they don’t have any safety, their inhabitants has decreased by as a lot as 90%. Nevertheless, protected areas have secure populations. They’re protected in United States waters, and Honduras declared its waters a shark sanctuary completely in 2011.

Predators and Prey of Caribbean Reef Sharks

The adults feed on reef-dwelling animals like barracuda, jacks, snapper, octopus, trumpetfishes, eagle rays, and yellow stingrays. Juveniles eat small fishes, shrimps, and crabs. To rid themselves of indigestible elements from their meal or take away parasites, Caribbean reef sharks have a neat trick – they’ll evert their abdomen. Eversion is a course of that some animals use to utterly purge their stomachs.

Younger Caribbean reef sharks typically go to cleansing stations occupied by yellow-nostril gobies off the coast of northern Brazil. They relaxation on the underside of the ocean whereas the fish clear parasites. Tiger sharks and bull sharks prey on juveniles, however adults have few pure predators.

Replica and Lifespan of the Caribbean Reef Shark

Female Caribbean reef sharks give start each different 12 months. Mating is seemingly violent, females typically have deep wounds on their sides throughout mating season. Being pregnant lasts about 12 months and females have a litter of three-6 pups each different 12 months. Their comparatively lengthy span between litters and the low variety of pups per litter signifies that they don’t develop in numbers in a short time. So, sharks killed by way of both direct searching or fishing bycatch are changed slowly.

Like different sharks, the Caribbean reef shark doesn’t lay eggs; as an alternative, the younger develop contained in the mom till they run out of yolk. Then, the empty yolk sac turns into a placental connection which permits them to realize vitamins instantly from their mom. The infants are about two and a half ft lengthy after they’re born and attain maturity at 4 or 5 years of age. Some research recommend that this shark’s lifespan is greater than 14 years.

Caribbean Reef Shark in Fishing and Cooking

In some areas, this species continues to be actively hunted for meat, liver oil, and leather-based. Nevertheless, their muscle tissue accumulates poisonous ranges of methylmercury and different heavy metals. So, many industrial fisheries aren’t searching them anymore. They’re not as engaging to shoppers due to the potential for poisonous heavy metals.

Legal guidelines that ban searching/fishing assist scale back the variety of sharks killed, however they’re nonetheless in about 40% of their fish catch. Bycatch like this has had a dramatic influence on the shark’s dwindling inhabitants. In areas which have legal guidelines defending them, their inhabitants is rising, however total, the species is endangered.


  1. IUCN Redlist, Available here:
  2. The Online Guide to the Animals of Trinidad and Tobago; Caribbean Reef Shark | University of the West Indies, Available here:
  3. Caribbean Reef Shark | Fishbase , Available here:
  4. Florida Fish & Wildlife, Available here:

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