Sunday, 22 May 2016

Caribbean reef shark, Carcharhinus perezi

We spotted the Caribbean reef shark at Looe key, a "spur and groove" coral reef off shore of Big Pine Key; normal for a Requiem shark that likes warm, sometimes brackish, tropical waters. Carcharhinus perezi are viviparous sharks that are characterized by round eyes and pectoral fins behind the gill slits. Under closer examination a second rear tip can be seen on the dorsal fin.  Females give live birth to 4-6 pups after a year long gestation period.

Photo Credit: Corey Corrick
Caribbean reef shark distribution
These sharks can be found in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and from North Carolina to Brazil of the western Atlantic, although they are very uncommon north of the Florida Keys. Interestingly, these are the first active swimming sharks to be observed resting on the bottom of the ocean floor (a similar behavior of nurse sharks).  Reef sharks prey on bony reef fish, cephalopods, and elasmobranchs like eagle rays. While Caribbean reef sharks can reach up to 9.7 feet in length, they are most commonly found to be around 5.5 - 6.5 feet long. C. perezi is an apex predator of coral reefs, but are themselves preyed upon by larger sharks like tiger and bull sharks as juveniles.  
Photo Credit: Corey Corrick
Reef sharks aren't aggressive towards humans unless provoked. When threatened a reef shark will swim in a jerky zig zag moment while lowing its pectoral fins. When this happens its best to give the shark some room. This shark is not considered threatened by the IUCN.
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Chondrichthyes
Subclass:Elasmobranchii
Superorder:Selachimorpha
Order:Carcharhiniformes
Family:Carcharhinidae
Genus:Carcharhinus
Species:C. perezi
Photo Credit: Dr. Joshua Voss

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