Pacific Blacktip Reef Shark Pacific Blacktip Reef Shark
Blacktip Reef Shark

Scientific Classification

Common Name
blacktip reef shark
Genus Species
Carcharhinus melanopterus

Fast Facts

A moderately-sized, brownish shark with a blunt snout, horizontally oval eyes, and obvious black blotches on the first dorsal apex, lower caudal lobe and the tips of other fins. They lack an interdorsal ridge.

Blacktips have a light brown dorsal surface fading to a white ventral surface. Both the first dorsal fin and ventral caudal lobe exhibit a conspicuous black apical blotch. Generally less prominent black tips are found on other fins. Additionally, they typically have a conspicuous white band along either flank.
Male: External claspers located on the far underside of the body - forward of the caudal fin - distinguish males.
13 cm (7 ft) max
14 kg (30.9 lbs.) max
Small fish (i.e. mullet, groupers, theraponids, jacks, mojarras, slipjaws, wrasses, surgeonfish, sillinginids), mollusks (i.e. cuttlefish, squid, octopi), and crustaceans (i.e. shrimp and mantis shrimp)
Viviparous, with a yolk sac placenta; gestation period possibly 16 months, with birth season from late winter to early summer
Clutch Size: 2 to 4, usually 4
Sexual Maturity
91 to 96 cm (36 to 38 in) in total length
Life Span
No data
From the East coast of Africa and the Arabian Sea to Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese waters – encompassing the shallow, coastal waters of the tropical Indo-Pacific. The species' Mediterranean range seems to have been extended by sharks that transited the Suez Canal.
The blacktip is a common, wide ranging tropical Indo-Pacific shark species which prefers shallow, inshore habitats (i.e. coral reefs). They are often found within the intertidal zone –including reef flats with depths of 30 cm (1 ft) or less. Blacktips are also observed near vertical drop-offs and occasionally near offshore areas – to 75 meters (250 ft) in depth.

Active and strong swimming, the blacktip is typically found near the bottom or at midwater if swimming in deeper water. While swimming in particularly shallow waters, their protruding dorsal fins are readily identified by observers. They are often seen swimming alone or in small groups – though they are not a rigidly schooling species.
Global: No data
IUCN: Lower Risk-Near Threatened
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. The wriggling fins of blacktips are often seen moving across extremely shallow reef flats only inches deep.
  2. Blacktips have been reported entering brackish river mouths through Malaysia and Madagascar – where they have also been found in brackish lakes.
  3. This shark species is believed to penetrate into fresh water in Malaysia; however, its ability to tolerate fresh water over a specific time duration is unknown.
  4. Due to its smaller size, this species is not typically regarded as a danger to humans. Blacktips have, however, been known to be aggressive toward humans engaged in spear-fishing. Additionally, people wading in shallow water have suffered bites upon their feet and legs from this species. Both types of encounters likely result from a human incursion (intentional or no) into the predatory environments and behaviors of the blacktip.
  5. For more information about sharks & rays, explore the Sharks & Rays InfoBook.

Ecology and Conservation

The blacktip is one of the most common sharks found on reef sites throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

As a result of their typical residence within shallow waters, this species is rarely taken by the Australian gillnet fishery.

Blacktips are occasionally targeted for human consumption. During the wet season, Australian Aborigines will harvest blacktips and prepare them as buunhdhaarr - a dish in which the liver and flesh of the shark are boiled separately and then minced and mixed together for final consumption. Elsewhere, the flesh of blacktips are prepared fresh or dry-salted. Additionally, the shark's liver-oil is often harvested for various uses.

This species may be preyed upon by larger shark species and by large groupers.


Allen, Thomas B., The Shark Almanac. The Lyons Press, 1999.

Compagno, Leonard J.V., FAO Species Catalog, Vol. 4 Sharks of the World. United Nations Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 1984.

Last, P.R. and Stevens, J.D. Sharks and Rays of Australia. CSIRO Australia, 1994.