6. Feb, 2016

About white and black tipped sharks

A good way  to identify sharks  is to use a  guide where you will find most of the species and subspecies with their official  names and appearances. I like these  'taxonomies' because they give you an idea of the complexity of our evolution, and the wonderful variety of  species. But they can also  be tedious, because you will have to go through the whole scale of  class, order,  family, genus  and species. And the features needed to identify a  specific shark such as its teeth  are not always obvious. To keep things simple I here focus on  the colour of the tip of the fins of some common sharks. So we have white tipped sharks and black tipped sharks. Although these sharks are all members of the family of Requiem sharks or Carcharhinidae, some may still belong to a different genus, that is a different subcategory of the family. Here we go.

White tips

The three most popular species  of white tips of the Indo-Pacific seas  are:

Genus Charcharhinus  (abbreviated C.),  two species:

1.Oceanic white tip  (C. longimanus) rounded dorsal fin at its apex,   broad and long  pectoral fins, found  offshore and along  steep drop offs. A bold shark that often closes in to or bump divers.

2. Silver tip shark (C. albimarginatus) conspicuous white-silvery  ending on its fins. Found along the deeper edges of the coral reefs. See picture above.

Genus Triaenodon. 1 species:

3.White tip reef shark (Trianodon obesus), rat like face. Nasal flaps. Often in shallow  water. Slender  body, allowing the shark to wriggle itself  through  tunnels or crevices in the reef wall , when  its hunting smaller fishes at night. The whitetip reef shark swims with strong undulations of its body, and unlike other requiem sharks can lie motionless on the bottom, often with a pack of other white tips, and pump water over its gills for  respiration.  A shark that is often found at the same location on a reef.

Black tip (genus Carcharhinus):  3 species:

1.Black tip shark (C.  limbatus). long pointed snout, arched frontal back, looks like the  Spinner shark C. brevipinna that has an even longer snout and more slender body. See front page

 2.Black tip reef shark (C. melanopterus) prominent black tips on  all fins, often  in  shallow  areas  and remaining within the same local area for up to several years.

 3.Grey reef shark (C. amblyrhynchos), very common shark of  the Indo-Pacifi c reefs.  Prominent black edge to tail.  Dutch ichthyologist Pieter Bleeker first described the grey reef shark in 1856 as Carcharias (Prionodon) amblyrhynchos. An older name of  this species is  C. menisorrah. The Paficic variety is more agressive than the Red Sea/Indian ocean variety. A stiff swimming pattern with pectoral fins down might forebode a swift attack on an intruder in their territory.




Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch. (1987). Shark. A photographers story. (Appendix) Headline publ. London.