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Oceanic Wite Tip Shark

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Oceanic Whitetip Shark
Carcharhinus longimanus

Photo modified from Sharks and Rays. TC Tricas, K Deacon, P Last, JE McCosker, TI Walker, L Taylor. 1997. Nature Company Guides, Time Life Book Series. Weldon Owen Pty Ltd San Francisco.

   The oceanic whitetip shark is a stocky and heavy set animal, up to 4 meters (13 feet) in length, with an enlarged first dorsal fin and large paddle like pectoral fins. The tips of the dorsal fins, caudal lobes and pectoral fins are mottled white on adults while juveniles may also have black marks. However the amount of pigmentation on the fin tips varies and is occasionally completely absent. The rest of the body is dark gray or olive gray in colour. The upper teeth are broad and triangular with serrated edges while the lower teeth have narrow serrated cusps and broad bases.

Diet

   This species of shark feeds mainly upon fast moving fishes such as tuna, barracuda and white marlin. However it also consumes squid, turtles, seabirds and even garbage that has been disposed of at sea.

Reproduction

   The oceanic whitetip shark is viviparous with litters of 5 to 15 pups which are born at a length of 65 to 75 cm (26 to 30 inches). It is believed that litter size increases with the size of the mother. Sexual maturity is reached at approximately 1.8 meters (5.8 feet).

Habitat

   The oceanic whitetip shark is generally found far from shore, from the surface down to a depth of 150 meters (500 feet). This pelagic species is found in water temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius or above. This shark is common in warm oceanic water and occasionally found in coastal areas of the tropics or warm temperate waters.

Range

   This shark species is found in the oceanic waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. In the Atlantic it occurs from northeastern Georges Bank, south to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico to Argentina. The specimens found in and around Canadian waters are at the northern most point of their range.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • White tipped fins
  • Broad rounded first dorsal fin
  • Large paddle like pectoral fins
  • Nictitating membrane over eye
Photo modified from Sharks, History and Biology of the Lords of the Sea. A. Mojetta. 1997. Swan Hill Press.

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