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the web of life in southern Africa

Triaenodon obesus (Whitetip reef shark)

(Rüppell, 1837)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) >.Chondrichthyes > Elasmobranchii > Galeomorphii > Carcharhiniformes > Carcharhinidae

Triaenodon obesus (Whitetip reef shark) [Illustration by Ann Hecht ©]


A small, slender grey shark with an extremely short, broad, snout, oval eyes, 1st dorsal fin behind pectorals, 2nd dorsal nearly as large as first, conspicuous white tips on the 1st dorsal and upper caudal fin, and no interdorsal ridge. Underside lighter, sometimes dark spots on sides.


To 2.1 m TL.


East coast, northern Natal and Mozambique; tropical Indian Ocean and Pacific.



Inshore in shallow, clear waters, often on coral reefs at 8 to 40 m.


Bears 1 to 5 young. Eats a variety of bony reef fishes, also octopi, lobsters and crabs. Easily extracts fish and other prey from holes and crevices in reefs, but not adept at capturing pelagic fishes.

Human Impact

Very timid, usually flees when approached by divers.

Text by Leonard J.V. Compagno, David A. Ebert and Malcolm J. Smale