Caribbean reef shark

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Scientific name

Carcharhinus perezi

Family

Carcharhinidae

Size

3 meters (10 feet)

Lifespan

Unknown

Did you know?

Caribbean reef sharks, while large sharks, could actually be considered mesopredators rather than apex predators in isolated environments such as offshore atolls. Their diet is similar to other large bony fishes in the same ecosystem, including barracudas and groupers.

About Caribbean reef sharks

Caribbean reef sharks are the most common coral reef shark species in the western Atlantic Ocean, but they are heavily fished throughout most of their range. Most Caribbean reef sharks are highly site faithful, and many may spend their entire lives at one reef location. These sharks are increasingly important to tourism economies, as encounters with Caribbean reef sharks are sought after by divers in countries such as The Bahamas, Belize, and Honduras. We found that large, mature females at Lighthouse Reef Atoll had very small home ranges, and preferred locations where there was plenty of food, namely fish spawning aggregations. This makes sense, as growing up to 6 pups a year takes a lot of calories. Caribbean reef sharks were recently listed as endangered to extinction due to high levels of targeted fishing throughout their relatively small range.

Diet

The diet of Caribbean reef sharks consist of large bony fishes, cephalopods (squid and octopus), and crustaceans.

Distribution

The Caribbean Reef Shark occurs throughout the Western Central and Southwest Atlantic Oceans, the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea to Brazil. They primarily inhabit shallow waters, but occasionally make deep dives to more than 300 meters.

Fun facts

  • The discovery of Caribbean reef sharks ‘sleeping’ in an underwater cave in Mexico was one of the more famous discoveries of the legendary scientist Dr. Eugenie Clark. The sharks were able to take advantage of an area with high current to rest while letting the water flow over their gills.

Caribbean reef shark photo gallery

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