Fun Reef Shark Facts For Kids

Oluwatosin Michael
Oct 20, 2022 By Oluwatosin Michael
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta
Reef shark facts about the vibrant, rare, and near-threatened shark species.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.7 Min

The Caribbean reef shark, Carcharhinus perezi, is a shark species native to the Caribbean Sea and is a member of the requiem shark species. There are five types of reef sharks including blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks, silvertip reef sharks, gray reef sharks, and Caribbean reef sharks.

Reef sharks are not always dangerous but this should not mislead you into thinking that they cannot harm humans since they have the capacity to.

As per records, 24 people have been attacked by reef sharks however all have survived since humans don't constitute their food chain. The great white shark is the most dangerous species of shark.

Shark meat is considered a delicacy in various cultures however, it is dangerous meat and contains mercury, lead, and even arsenic which is harmful to human health. Despite this, they continue to be killed and consumed by various sets of people.

The killing of sharks for meat is dangerous to human health as well as the environment since it affects the food chain and increases algae growth in water which ultimately pollutes the water body. Sharks have been recognized as important members of coral reef communities however they are declining in populations.

Some species of reef sharks are kept in sanctuaries and other wildlife centers. Read on to know more about these sharks.

If you like this article then visit Caribbean reef shark and zebra shark facts too.


Reef Shark Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a reef shark?

A reef shark is a type of shark species of animals. Reef sharks' predators include humans and other large sharks.

What class of animal does a reef shark belong to?

The reef shark is a type of fish species and belongs to the Chondrichthyes class of animals.

How many reef sharks are there in the world?

There are a total of 400 different shark species in the world. Sharks are near threatened species and are missing from 19% of the world's coral reefs which is harmful to the environment as well as the ecosystem. The exact number of reef sharks is not recorded however their populations have been devastated.  

Where does a reef shark live?

Reef sharks survive in water bodies like seas and the ocean. They are found in the Pacific Ocean and water bodies in and near northern South Africa, and Madagascar. They are not found in regions like north, central, or even South America.

What is a reef shark's habitat?

Reef sharks like reef habitats. These sharks reside in ranges from 0-164 ft deep which is 0-50 m deep. They reside in shallow regions close to the shore they can travel great depths in search of food. They prefer tropical and subtropical habitats in the Pacific and Indian oceans with coral reefs, hence their name 'reefshark'.

Who do reef sharks live with?

Young sharks may reside in shore areas however once adults, reef sharks hunt alone and can form frenzies when people gut fish underwater. They feed on other smaller fishes and beings like octopuses, mullets, and shrimps.

How long does a reef shark live?

The female reef sharks live up to 19 years while the male reef sharks live up to 14 years. Their maximum recorded age for a reef shark is 25 years. This may also be dependant on their diet as well as encroachment and other activities which may harm their health.

How do they reproduce?

Black reef sharks reproduce viviparously meaning the young sharks develop inside the body. The male shark's left clasper is anchored into the female's vent while mating. The male also provides an oral grasp to the female's left pectoral fin.

This mating ritual enables the sperm into the female cloaca. This differs from other sharks who lay eggs or retain the eggs inside until they hatch. The mother is responsible for feeding the offspring until they are ready to hunt for themselves.

What is their conservation status?

Reef sharks are considered a Near Threatened species. Even though there are five types of reef sharks, their populations have been impacted greatly due to habitat loss and reckless killing.

Their attacks are certain only if we encroach their territory and exploit them or keep food in their sight. The presence of sharks is essential to the environment and the ecosystem to survive hence in recent years conservation efforts have been made in a similar direction by authorities and organizations.

Reef Shark Fun Facts

What do reef sharks look like?

While swimming in particularly shallow waters near coral reefs their dorsal fins protrude. The first dorsal fin is slightly angled or curved and the gills slit at an angle.

The second dorsal fin has an extra rare tip.

Reef shark teeth are sharp and perfect for hunting and are used when the reef shark attacks. The reef shark tooth has 13-14 rows of teeth.

It has an interdorsal ridge from the rear of the first dorsal fin to the front of the second dorsal fin.

The reef sharks are of many subspecies including a black-tipped reef shark, great barrier reef shark, white reef shark, white-tipped reef shark, coral reef shark, black reef shark, and the Caribbean reef shark with slight differences in color and appearance but they belong to the same family.

For example, the black fin reef shark has black fins but appears similar to other species of reef sharks.

Reef sharks are usually brown tan color with a white underside on their underpart of the sharkskin.

How cute are they?

Reef sharks are spectacular and unique in their appearance and young sharks are extremely cute to look at although you can rarely see them away from their mothers.

How do they communicate?

Sharks live in schools and it's likely for them to communicate with each other through arching their bodies or through sight. This is more specific to the grey reef shark habitat where they communicate primarily via these channels. Reef sharks also have an excellent sense of smell and a sharp ear to detect any sensitive sounds.

How big is a reef shark?

A reef shark is 8.5 ft (2.6 m) which is 10 times bigger than the dwarf lantern shark, a lesser-known dogfish species which is known as the smallest shark in the world at 0.65 ft (0.2 m).  

How fast can a reef shark swim?

Reef sharks can travel at speeds of 50 km/hr. They are fast swimmers and usually travel at 50 km/hr when they are chasing their prey. The Shortfin Mako is considered to be the fastest shark species and travels at a speed of 74km/hr.

How much does a reef shark weigh?

A reef shark weighs approximately 74 lb (33.7 kg). The Black tip reef shark size is 6.6 ft and weighs  30lb (13.6 kg). The Whitetip reef shark is 5.3 ft and its highest weight recorded was 40.3 lb (18.3 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Males and females don't have different scientific names however they can be identified by their size females tend to be longer and bigger as compared to male sharks. Also, males have a pair of claspers used while mating almost looking like an extra pair of finds on their body.

What would you call a baby reef shark?

A small reef shark is referred to as a pup. Pups travel in a school together along with other reef shark pups. These young ones measure up to 16-20 in (40-50 cm). They reach sexual maturity at the age of eight years.  

What do they eat?

The reef shark diet is largely carnivorous in nature. Shark species are usually found in shallow waters eating crustaceans like squids, shrimp, octopus, and lobsters. They also consume butterflyfish, cowfish, and surgeonfish. They don't consume any vegetation and instantly get attracted to food.

Are they aggressive?

They become dangerous in the presence of food and aggressive if encountered in open waters. Apart from this, they are not harmful and prefer to stay alone.

Gray reef shark are often curious about divers when they first see them but after observing they lose interest and leave. In such a time, it's essential to not show your back towards the shark and remain as still as possible, do not dive in the dark, and maintain a distance from the shark.

Would they make a good pet?

No, it's not ideal to keep reef sharks as pets since they have the capacity to grow to great lengths, and it's best to observe them in their natural habitat.

There are variants of shark species that can be adopted as a pet like marbled catshark, coral catshark, a white-spotted bamboo shark, and gray bamboo shark which can fit into a 180-gallon tank.

You should not feel disappointed however if you cannot adopt a reef shark as you could always visit them in regions they are native to and have the opportunity to see them in conservation centers or in diving experiences organized in larger water bodies.

Did you know...

Scientists have found that sharks have close to 154 genes that are comparable to humans. Both sharks and humans have incredibly strong skulls to protect the brain.

This allows for both sharks and humans to have eye sockets and jawlines. Sharks have similar eyes to humans. Although they are showcased as our enemies, sharks do have common traits with humans in unlikely ways.

Sharks can detect electricity using their pore-shaped canals, heads, and snouts. This is referred to as their sixth sense in some instances. They use signals in order to find possible prey and even possible mates.  

'Baby Shark' is a children's song/rhyme which was taught to children under the age of five in Korea but the tune was different. They collaborated with a company called Pinkfong and the song became an instant sensation.

The original was sung by a 10-year-old Korean American singer Hope Segoine. This song is available to watch on popular websites like YouTube and is a catchy and colorful video that all kids find amusing.

When threatened the Caribbean reef sharks are known to do a 'threat dance' that includes swimming in a zigzag movement while dipping the pectoral fins at intervals. Caribbean reef sharks have been seen lying motionless in the sea.

Shark feeding is illegal off the coast of Florida. However, at other locations around the world it still continues. This primarily due to the fact that reef sharks may attack feeders. The vast majority of attacks by reef sharks on humans are nonfatal.

Bull sharks are often confused with reef sharks however they are different species of sharks. The difference between bull shark vs reef shark includes that bull sharks are seen more as compared to the reef sharks who are happy near coral reefs.

The Bull shark also has a rather stocky shape as compared to reef sharks who are more short and blunt.

How do reef sharks hunt?

Reef sharks stay in their caves for the most part of the day they hunt at night. The whitetip reef shark, for example, forces its way into crevices to hunt for prey.

Their eyesight is sharp and so is their sensing of movements. The white tip reef shark habitat is such that it searches alone for prey while other shark species usually work in groups to search for prey. The great reef shark usually hunts for prey moving in the opposite direction against the coral reef face.

Which are the most aggressive reef sharks?

The most aggressive reef sharks are the gray and silvertip reef sharks especially with food present and away from the reef. This is not to say that other reef species are any less dangerous.

The blacktip reef shark adaptations have two pectoral fins. This combined with its other unique features makes it a successful predator they are also easy to distinguish from other species of reef fish since the blacktip reef shark has distinct black tips on its fins.

The Black tip reef shark habitat is usually in warm, shallow water near coral reefs.

Black tip reef shark predators include larger fishes including groupers, tiger sharks, and some members of their own species. Other species of reefs are equally aggressive when it comes to survival since in the wild it's the survival of the fittest.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including great white shark, or thresher shark.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our reef shark coloring pages.

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Written by Oluwatosin Michael

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

Oluwatosin Michael picture

Oluwatosin MichaelBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

With a Bachelor's in Microbiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oluwatosin has honed his skills as an SEO content writer, editor, and growth manager. He has written articles, conducted extensive research, and optimized content for search engines. His expertise extends to leading link-building efforts and revising onboarding strategies. 

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Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Deeti Gupta picture

Deeti GuptaBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

A detail-oriented fact-checker with a research-oriented approach. Devika has a passion for creative writing, she has been published on multiple digital publishing platforms and editorials before joining the Kidadl team. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from St.Xavier's College, Deeti has won several accolades and writing competitions throughout her academic career.

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