Conservation Status: Near Threatened
Scientific Name: Carcharhinus Melanopterus
The Blacktip Reef Shark is one of the most common shark species found at the Galapagos Islands, and can often be sighted in the shallows while snorkelling, or even from the shore if waters are clear.
They are small to average-sized sharks, with sleak bodies, round snout, and attractive black tips on all of their fins. They typically reach lengths of up to 1.5 m, but are timid and docile around humans, despite their mouth full of serrated teeth.
Where to find them: They can bee seen in shallow waters around reefs throughout the Galapagos Islands.
When to see them: All year round.
Blacktip Reef Sharks prefer shallow waters, and can often be seen in depths of less than one metre. They like areas around coral reefs with clean & warm water, nooks and crannies to hide in, and will often be spotted hanging out together in groups.
Galapagos Blacktip Reef Sharks are viviparous, giving birth to live pups. The gestation period is believed to be 10-12 months, with an average of two to four pups per litter. Galapagos waters make the perfect birthing site for this species, providing protected nursery grounds for young sharks who are vulnerable to predation. The shallows around magroves are perfect, with abundant food and shelter until juveniles are ready to face the open sea.
The Blacktip Reef Shark is an extremely fast and skilled predator, hunting at night for small reef fish and crustaceans. They often hunt in small packs for more effective results.
• The Blacktip Reef Shark is often confused with the Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus Limbatus), but the two are completely different species.
• A Blacktip reef shark needs to stay swimming in order to stay alive. Water only enters their gills whilst moving, providing them with vital oxygen, so if they stop for a long period of time they will suffocate.
• They can easily detect movement or contrast in low light conditions by using electroreception to locate their prey - although they cannot discern the shape of the object.
• Incredibly the Blacktip Reef Shark is one of very few sharks capable of jumping fully out of the water, although this is definitely not a common sight at Galapagos. It is not fully know why they do this, but could be related to feeding, courtship, observation of surroundings, a show dominance, or to remove parasites from its skin.
Written by John Potts
John is the original founder of Happy Gringo. He is from London UK and has over 17 years of travel and work experience within Latin America. John´s biggest passions in life are travel and nature, he has had the pleasure to visit more than 75 different countries, and calls Quito, in Ecuador, home.