Common name: whitetip reef shark
Synonyms and Other Names: Triaenodon apicalis
available through www.itis.gov
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).
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Puerto Rico &
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps
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).
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.
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.
Brown, M.E., and P.J. Schofield
Revision Date: 10/31/2018
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.