Gray reef sharks are one of the most common sharks in Indo-Pacific waters, this shark inhabits reefs, passes and drop-offs. When people picture the archetypal “shark”, the image in their heads is usually very similar to the look of the gray reef shark.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Chondrichthyes
Subclass - Elasmobranchii
Order - Carcharhiniformes
Family - Carcharhinidae
Genus - Carcharhinus
Species – C. amblyrhynchos
Common Name – Grey or Gray Reef Shark, Black-V Whaler, Whaler Shark, Longnose Blacktail Shark, Bronze Whaler, Fowler’s Whaler, Grey Whaler, Graceful Whaler. Many of its common names are used interchangeably with other sharks in the genus Carcharhinus.
This shark features the typical shark body type, built for moving swiftly through the water in search of prey. Gray reef sharks, true to their name, are a bronzy-grey above and white below. There is often a prominent black edge along the tail fin, and sometimes features a white edge to its first dorsal fin, though this is not always present. They can grow to over 8 feet in length, but typically do not reach more than 6 feet.
Like all requiem sharks in the family Carcharinidae, gray reef sharks are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. Females bear one to four pups, with larger females giving birth to more young. Gestation lasts 9-14 months.
These sharks are one of the few species in which a specific threat display has been observed. When the shark is agitated, it will swim in figure-8 loops with its pectoral fins pointing downward, its snout pointing upward, and its back arched in a “hunch”. If it continues to be antagonized after displaying this threat behavior, it will likely charge and attack.
The grey reef shark is not typically aggressive, though it should be treated with caution and respect as it has the potential to cause injury if provoked. They may attack spearfishermen, drawn to the movements and signals sent out by the distressed fish, and any diver that witnesses a threat display should retreat immediately.
These sharks are quite social and are not territorial, often gathering in large, loose groups. They feed mainly on fish, cephalopods (octopi and squid) and crustaceans (crabs and lobsters).
The gray reef shark was first described in 1856 and was placed in the genus Carcharias, but was later moved into its present position as a member of the Carcharhinus.
This species has become popular for “shark-watching” ecotourism ventures.
The gray reef shark is considered “Near Threatened”. They are caught in fisheries for use in shark fin soup, and their reef habitats are also threatened. This creature’s slow maturation and reproductive rate makes recovery a slow and challenging process.
The Little Guides: Sharks, Edited by Leighton Taylor, 1999
Sharks of the World, 2005, Leonard Compagno, Marc Dando, Sarah Fowler