Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Category: Sea Life

The oceanic whitetip shark is a large shark found in the open ocean in warm tropical waters. Despite its name, it is not closely related to the whitetip reef shark. Though both are “requiem” sharks in the family Carcharhinidae, they have little in common in terms of appearance and behavior, other than the white marks on the edges of their fins.

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Chondrichthyes

Subclass - Elasmobranchii

Order - Carcharhiniformes

Family - Carcharhinidae

Genus - Carcharhinus

Species – C. longimanus

Common Name – Oceanic Whitetip Shark, Silvertip Shark, White-tipped Whaler Shark, Brown Shark, Lesser White Shark

Characteristics

The oceanic whitetip can grow as large as 13 feet in length. Its most distinctive features are its fins, which are long and rounded on the edges, with white blotching at the tips. The rest of the shark is brownish gray above fading to white below.

Breeding

These sharks give birth to live young, usually 5 to 7 pups. Not much is known about their reproduction, though it is believed that, like other related sharks, they may reproduce once every two years.

Behavior

Oceanic whitetips patrol the open ocean in search of fish and cephalopods like squid to eat. It will also eat stingrays, sea turtles, seabirds and crabs or lobsters if available. Generally slow-moving, they are capable of quick, short bursts if necessary. These sharks may whip into a “feeding frenzy” when a large number of sharks is present at a food source.

Whitetips are often accompanied by striped pilot fish, which swim alongside them and feed off scraps of the shark’s prey.

History

Whitetips historically were commonly seen following ships, and their curious nature earned them the nickname “sea dogs”, which was applied to all sharks before the word “shark” entered into the English language in the 1500s.

Since they are not found close to shore, they rarely interact with humans and thus are not implicated in many recent shark bites. However, they have a long history of attacking survivors of plane crashes and ship wrecks, and Jacques Cousteau, the famous oceanic explorer, called them “the most dangerous shark of all.”

Present status

Oceanic whitetips are considered “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It is hunted for its fins, meat and oil and is in danger of overfishing. It is not only caught intentionally, but also often tangled in nets meant for other animals. Like many other sharks, its fins are used to make “shark fin soup”, a traditional dish in Chinese and Vietnamese cultures. The demand for this dish is decreasing due to raised awareness about the impact on shark populations, but it has already driven many shark species into endangered territory.

Between 1992 and 2000, numbers of this shark were estimated to have fallen by up to 70% in the Atlantic and up to 99% in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2018 it was added to the list of threatened species under the United States Endangered Species Act.

References

  1. The Sharks of North America, Jose I. Castro, 2011
  2. The Little Guides: Sharks, Edited by Leighton Taylor, 1999
  3. Sharks of the World, 2005, Leonard Compagno, Marc Dando, Sarah Fowler
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oceanic_whitetip_shark