Caribbean Reef Shark

The Caribbean Reef Shark is a requiem shark found in the tropical western Atlantic and the Caribbean, from Florida and the Bahamas through to Brazil. In the Atlantic, they are rarely found north of the Florida Keys. The Caribbean Reef Shark is one of the largest apex predators in these areas.

(Apex predators as adults, are not normally preyed upon in the wild in significant parts of their range by creatures not of their own species). Caribbean Reef sharks typically are seen cruising the edge of reefs, over deep water.

Caribbean Reef Shark Characteristics

The Caribbean Reef Shark is dark grey to grey-brown on the dorsal side and white to light yellow on the ventral side. The undersides of the pectoral, pelvic and anal fins and the ventral caudal lobe are dusky coloured. An interdorsal ridge is present from the rear of the first dorsal fin to the front of the second dorsal fin, which has a short rear tip.

Their snout is moderately short and broadly rounded and the eyes are relatively large. The Caribbean Reef shark reaches a maximum of 3 metres (10 feet) in length.

Caribbean Reef Shark Diet

The Caribbean Reef shark feeds on bony fishes and probably large, motile marine invertebrates (reef fish, rays and large crabs) using its acute senses of smell, sight, touch, hearing and electric vibration using its ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’, small pores under the skin that form a sensory network. This shark and others, also uses a lateral canal system in the body to detect water vibration. Prey is grasped at the mouth corner by a sudden lateral (sideways) snap of the jaws.

Caribbean Reef Shark Reproduction

Female Caribbean Reef sharks are a viviparous species, meaning females give birth to live young that she has nourished with a placental sac. They have 4r to 6 pups that are about 0.6 metres (2 feet) long at birth. Reproductive behaviour of the Caribbean Reef shark is not well known in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere females give birth between November-December, which is the summer season, after a 12 month gestation. Females often have scars from bites by males during mating. Juvenile Caribbean reef sharks are preyed on by larger shark species, such as the tiger shark and bull shark.

Caribbean Reef Shark Behaviour

The Caribbean Reef shark tends to inhabit coral reefs and ocean bottoms near the continental and insular shelves. They prefer shallow waters with a maximum depth of 30 metres. They are often found on the outer edges of coral reefs near drop offs and lying motionless on the ocean bottom.

The Caribbean Reef shark is not an aggressive species and is not considered dangerous to humans unless provoked. However, it is excitable and may make close passes at divers and may bite in the presence of speared fish. Aggressive behaviour may be displayed if the shark feels threatened. When threatened, it stiffly lowers its pectoral fins and makes frequent, sharp direction changes.

Caribbean Reef Shark Conservation Status

The Caribbean Reef shark is classed as ‘Near Threatened’. Aggregations of Caribbean reef sharks at these sites are highly vulnerable to being fished out. A single long line could decimate an entire population.