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Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Threat Level:  Medium/High

The Oceanic Whitetip Shark is also known as
Whitetip shark, white-tipped shark, whitetip whaler.

Oceanic Whitetip Shark




Scientific name...........Carcharhinus Longimanus

Family name.............. Carcharhinidae


  • General Information: The oceanic whitetip shark is a large and stocky gray species, and should not be confused with the slender, and small finned whitetip reef shark. The oceanic whitetip is one of the more conspicuous sharks because of its large rounded dorsal fin and very long paddle-like pectoral fins have mottled white tips; hence the species common name.


  • Size: Oceanic whitetips can grow to large sizes reaching 11-13 feet. The average size of these sharks are approx. 10 feet in length or less. The weight of oceanic range from 100 to approx.320 pounds.


  • Teeth: The oceanic whitetip has powerful jaws has sharp serrated teeth. The upper and lower teeth differ in shape. The upper jaw contains broad, triangular, serrated teeth, while the teeth in the lower jaw are much more pointed and are only serrated near the tip. The shape of its teeth make it very easy to take large chunks out of big prey; the pointy lower teeth pin and hold onto the prey while the upper serrated teeth can saw out a piece of flesh.


  • Color: This species is commonly named the oceanic whitetip shark for the whitish tipped first dorsal, pectoral, pelvic, and caudal fins. These white markings are sometimes accompanied by white mottling on the fins. In younger specimens, the pelvic and pectoral fins are often tipped with black, and these juveniles often have saddle-shaped markings between the first and second dorsal fins. The underside of the shark is always whitish, but the color of the dorsal half of the body sometimes varies slightly from location to location. While it is usually greyish bronze to brown in color above, for instance in the Red Sea, the back is sometimes browner; in the Indian Ocean the back is greyer; and off Hawaii the back is more of a pale beige.


  • Feeding Habits: Oceanic whitetips eat just about anything that they can catch in the open sea, including a variety of fishes and squid, barracuda, marlin, mackerels, and even garbage that has been disposed of at sea. Whitetips have also been found to eat sea birds and sea turtles, tuna and crustaceans. It also swims through schools of feeding tuna with wide-open jaws into which the tuna unknowingly swim. If other species of sharks are encountered by the oceanic whitetip during feeding activities, the oceanic whitetip becomes aggressive and dominates over them.


  • Social Behaviour: Although this shark is primary solitary, it has been observed in feeding frenzies when a food source is present. It is believed to have equal amounts of activity during the day and night time hours. One of the more interesting facets of the oceanic whitetip's behaviour is its association with the shortfin pilot whale. Whitetips are often found swimming along with the big pods of pilot whales, and often follow the whales when they dive down into the depths, The reason whitetips hang around pilot whales is not known, but it is possible that the sharks follow the whales and feed along on the squid that the whales actively seek out.


  • Habitat | Migration | Distribution: The oceanic whitetip shark is distributed worldwide and is a common resident of warm open ocean waters. They are found in tropical and subtropical waters, usually in deep open oceans. Whitetips can be found at any level ranging from the surface to at least 500 feet. Rarely seen close to the shore, but sometimes be found in the waters off the Southern California and Southern Australia coasts where it has followed the warm ocean currents.


  • Life Span: The longest- lived known specimen lived to an age of 22 years.


  • Reproduction: Oceanic whitetip shark is viviparous in reproduction, meaning the eggs hatch inside the mother with the young being born alive. During the year-long gestation period, the embryos are nourished by a placental yolk-sac that is attached to the uterine wall by umbilical cords. The litter size increases with the size of the mother as many as 15 live pups are born, each pup is approximately 24-30 inches. It appears whitetips mate and give birth in the early summer.


  • Swimming: Oceanic whitetips have been described for their swimming behaviour in open waters at or near the surface of the water as moving slowly with the huge pectoral fins spread widely.


  • Oceanic Whitetip Shark Attacks: Although they are generally slow moving, it is dangerous because it has powerful jaws, large teeth, and it will not hesitate to approach swimmers or small boats. It is probably responsible for many of the open-ocean attacks on people after air or sea disasters.


  • Population Report: Once abundant now reduced by overfishing.

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