Ever imagined going on a trip to the Caribbean and going on a dive in the sea? How would you react to a heavy, large yet beautiful beast swimming beside you? You would, undoubtedly, be scared! But do you know that these beasts are extremely shy and innocent creatures and you are, to an extent, safe among them? You would definitely be thrilled! Caribbean reef sharks, known as Carcharhinus perezi in the scientific community, are exquisitely interesting creatures and you would love to know more about them. Here are some interesting facts about the unique shark species. If you enjoy reading these facts about the Caribbean reef shark, check out our information on drum fish and blacktip reef shark as well.
The Caribbean reef shark is a requiem shark species, belonging to the family of Carcharhinidae. They are heavy-bodied tropical sharks with a robust and streamlined shape which is common to other large members of this species. They also possess some features that greatly distinguish them from the other members of their species such as a short rear tip on the second dorsal fin, teeth shape and numbers, and dusky colored caudal lobe without any prominent markings on the fins.
Caribbean reef sharks are not considered dangerous to humans because of their shy nature toward them. Mostly, they are found near coral reefs in oceans.
Caribbean reef sharks belong to the mammal class. They are known to give birth to four to six pups at a time.
Caribbean reef sharks have been declared as a Nearly Threatened species and their population has been declining over the years. The threat arises because of overfishing and the degradation of the coral reef. The commercial importance of Caribbean reef sharks has posed serious threats to the species as every part of their body can be put to use. Their jaws can be used as ornaments, liver as a source of oil, and the fins and meat for food with the skin being important for leather production.
Caribbean reef sharks in the Bahamas have been designated as a 'protected shark species' due to their significance to ecotourism where they are used for shark feeding trips. They are rarely found in the regions north of the Florida Keys.
Caribbean reef sharks live in the waters of the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. They are usually found near coral reefs in the southern hemisphere. They are not commonly found in the regions north of the Florida Keys.
The Caribbean reef sharks are found throughout the Atlantic Ocean, from Brazil, including the Caribbean Sea, the northern Gulf of Mexico, and Bermuda. It prefers areas around coral reefs and is most commonly found in shallow waters which are less than 30m deep.
Caribbean reef sharks are observed to be shy and behave differently in the presence of human divers. As a result, news of any Caribbean reef shark attack is very rare. In fact, these sharks are the most commonly used sharks for shark feeding trips. They live among a wide variety of reef-dwelling fishes as well as eagle rays (Aetobatus Narinari) and yellow stingrays (Urobatis Jamaicensis), upon which they are known to feed. They are at times found among Horse-eye Jacks (Caranx Latus) and bar jacks (Carangoides Ruber).
The Caribbean reef shark lifespan is 22 years on average. The life span can vary slightly based on the Caribbean reef shark diet.
Caribbean reef sharks reproduce in a viviparous fashion, with a gestation period of one year. When sexually mature, they mate aggressively, as evident from biting scars and wounds on the sides of females, and become pregnant every other year. The developing embryos exhaust their supply of yolk and develop a placental connection with the mother for nourishment. After a gestation period of one year, the females give birth to an average of four to six pups.
Caribbean reef sharks are an endangered species whose numbers have been declining steadily over the last few years due to multiple reasons. As a result, they are only common in waters around the southern hemisphere.
Caribbean Reef Sharks are heavy-bodied beasts with a streamlined and robust shape, a characteristic of other large requiem sharks. On the dorsal side, the Caribbean reef shark has gray-brown to dark gray color while the ventral side is white to light yellow in color. An interdorsal ridge is present from the rear side of the first dorsal fin to the front side of the second dorsal fin. The first dorsal fin is high and sickle-shaped while the second dorsal fin is relatively large with a short free rear tip, the pectoral fins being long and narrow. They have five pairs of gill slits, moderately long with the third gill slit over the origin of pectoral fins. An adult shark can extend up to a length of 2.95 m.
Caribbean reef sharks are cute and beautiful to look at with a robust and streamlined body typical to requiem sharks. Dusky colored fins without prominent markings and a short free rear tip on the second dorsal fin make them exquisitely unique among other sharks.
Caribbean reef sharks possess an amazing attribute of using their six keen senses to communicate and locate their prey, namely olfactory, visual, tactile, auditory, gustatory, and electric reception. They are usually adapted to detecting low-frequency sounds which are an indication of a struggling fish nearby. Like many other sharks, they use a lateral canal system in their body to identify water vibration.
Caribbean reef sharks are about 2 ft (0.6 m) long at birth and grow to be an adult with a length between 6-8 ft (2-2.95 m).
The Caribbean reef sharks are not rated among the world’s fast-swimming sharks. They are observed to be sleepy creatures because of their sleepy resting sessions. However, when threatened, they are said to move at an extremely fast speed.
Caribbean reef sharks are known to be heavy-bodied beasts with an average weight of 150 lb (70 kg) and are physically similar to other sharks of the same species.
Like all other sharks, male Caribbean reef sharks are commonly known as male sharks and females are commonly known as female sharks.
Baby Caribbean reef shark are known as pups.
The Caribbean reef shark feeds on a wide variety of food sources found near coral reefs. The known food sources for Caribbean reef shark feeding include reef-dwelling bony fishes and cephalopods as well as some elasmobranchs such as eagle rays (Aetobatus Narinari) and yellow stingrays (Urobatis Jamaicensis).
They use different tactics to hunt their prey. The young ones of this species usually feed on small fishes, shrimps, and crabs. Caribbean reef sharks have been found performing stomach eversions to aid their digestive system meant for extraction of parasites, mucus, and indigestible particles from stomach linings.
Some evidence shows the fatality of Caribbean reef sharks towards humans in the form of toxins accumulated in the flesh of the species. Being marine predators, they are prone to ingestion of toxic levels of mercury and other heavy metals due to bioaccumulation which are potential threats to humans. Some toxins may also be accumulated from the fishes and cephalopods they feed on.
Caribbean reef sharks are large mammals which is indicative of why they cannot be kept as a pet in a fish aquarium. However, they are beautiful to look at with a robust and streamlined body typical of requiem sharks. They are the most commonly used sharks for shark feeding trips. They are not known to be a common threat to humans and very few cases of attacks have been registered to date, none of them being fatal.
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It is common to find Caribbean reef sharks resting motionless on the seafloor or inside caves and are the only active species displaying such behavior. They have been termed as "sleeping sharks", by Eugenie Clark who discovered this unique behavior associated with the Caribbean reef sharks, inside the caves of Isla Mujeres off the Yucatan Peninsula and clarified that it was a resting behavior rather than a sleeping action, by the motion of their eyes towards the divers. Much hasn't been proved yet regarding the strange behavior of Caribbean reef sharks.
Moreover, Caribbean reef sharks are known to exhibit a threat display when threatened, characterized by short, jerky swimming action with frequent changes in direction with repetitive and brief drops of the pectoral fins.
According to the International Shark Attack File, a total of 27 attacks have been listed belonging to the Caribbean reef shark species out of which four are known to be unprovoked, and none fatal. However, this shark species is a major suspect for a recent attack on the island of St. Martin.
Caribbean reef sharks are preyed upon by larger sharks namely Tiger Shark and the Bull Shark. They also act as a host for a few parasites. Dark variegated leech being one of them, are often seen trailing from its first dorsal fin. There is an advanced way to debar juvenile Caribbean reef sharks of parasites known as 'cleaning stations'. These stations are occupied by yellow nose gobies (Elacatinus Randalli) who feed on the parasites residing on the sharks.
They also live among a wide variety of reef-dwelling bony fishes and cephalopods as well as yellow stingrays and eagle rays, upon which they are known to feed.
You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Caribbean Reef Shark coloring pages.