The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Triaenodon obesus
Triaenodon obesus
(whitetip reef shark)
Translate this page with Google
Français Deutsch Español Português Russian Italiano Japanese

Copyright Info
Triaenodon obesus (Rüppell, 1837)

Common name: whitetip reef shark

Synonyms and Other Names: Triaenodon apicalis

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: The whitetip reef shark is a slender shark with a broad flattened head and short snout. The first dorsal fin originates well beyond the pectoral fin and is tipped in white (Castro 2011). Color is dark brownish gray with a few dark gray blotches on the body and a white or yellowish underside (Randall 1977). The tips of the first dorsal and upper caudal fin are white; the second dorsal is often white-tipped as well. (Randall 1977).

Size: Maximum size to about 213 cm TL, but rarely over 160 cm (Compagno 1984)

Native Range: Broadly distributed and common in the warm tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans from the east coast of Africa to the eastern Pacific (Castro 2011).

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Hawaii auto-generated map
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Three specimens were seen near a sunken ferry off the Paraná coast in southeastern Brazil (Bornatowski et al. 2017).

Ecology: The whitetip reef shark is a relatively placid bottom-dwelling species usually found around coral reefs (Randall 1977). Primarily nocturnal, they shelter in caves by day, often communally (Randall 1977). It is nimble and agile with the ability to enter small holes and crevices to feed on reef fishes, octopuses, and crustaceans (Castro 2011). Sexual maturity is reached at eight to nine years and whitetip reef sharks are estimated to live to about 16 years (Smith et al. 1998). The female gives birth to litters of one to five live pups (Randall 1977).

Means of Introduction: Unknown. Potentially aquarium release or long-distance dispersal (Bornatowski et al. 2017).

Status: Unknown

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

Remarks: May cause ciguatera poisoning if the liver is eaten (Randall 1977).

References: (click for full references)

Bornatowski, H., R. Loose, C.L.S. Sampaio, O.B.F. Gadig, A. Carvalho-Filho, A., and R.R. Domingues, 2017. Human introduction or natural dispersion? Atlantic Ocean occurrence of the Indo-Pacific whitetip reef shark Triaenodon obesus. Journal of Fish Biology 92:537-542.

Castro, J.I. 2011. The Sharks of North America. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.

Compagno, L.J.V., 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 2 - Carcharhiniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125:251-655. Rome: FAO.  

Randall, J.E. 1977. Contribution to the biology of whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus). Pacific Science 31(2): 143-164.

Smith, S.E., D.W. Au, and C. Show. 1998. Intrinsic rebound potentials of 26 species of Pacific sharks. Marine Freshwater Resources 49:663-678.

Other Resources:

Author: Brown, M.E., and P.J. Schofield

Revision Date: 10/31/2018

Citation Information:
Brown, M.E., and P.J. Schofield, 2019, Triaenodon obesus (Rüppell, 1837): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=3249, Revision Date: 10/31/2018, Access Date: 4/19/2019

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2019]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [4/19/2019].

Contact us if you are using data from this site for a publication to make sure the data are being used appropriately and for potential co-authorship if warranted. For queries involving fish, please contact Matthew Neilson. For queries involving invertebrates, contact Amy Benson.