Friday, 26 May 2017

Caribbean Reef Shark

The Caribbean Reef Shark, or Carcharhinus perezii is a common apex predator typically inhabiting coral reefs. This shark was spotted on May 25th while snorkeling at Looe Key. Their habitat ranges from South Florida to off shore South America. They are the most abundant shark found in these areas. They usually dwell near the bottom of reefs but have been reported to dive up to 378 m. Some distinctive features include an interdorsal ridge at the end of their first dorsal fin, blunt snout, large narrow pectoral fins, and large eyes. Males range from 1.5-1.7 m while females range from 1.8-1.9 m, the largest reported reef shark was 2.43 m. Females are often distinguished by bite scars on the side of their body. This is caused by aggressive males during reproduction. Like most shark species, the Caribbean reef shark is viviparous meaning they give live birth. The gestation period for these sharks is about one year. Not much is known on their reproduction, although there have been reports of reef shark pupping in Northeastern Brazil. This species predominately eats bony fish and some smaller elasmobranchs. They also have no natural predator.

According to the IUCN, the Caribbean reef shark is "Near Threatened". This is due to the overfishing of these sharks, specifically off San Andres, Colombia and Northern Brazil. They are typically used for food, leather, and oil. Bycatch is another threat to these sharks from commercial longline fisheries. However, it is currently prohibited to capture these sharks by fishers in U.S. waters. Not a lot of information has been collected on this species, but there are current population studies being conducted in Belize, Cuba, and Brazil. These sharks are important to both ecologically and economically. Not only are they an important part of the reef ecosystems but they also play a role in the ecotourism along the Caribbean.

 Carcharhinus perezii at Looe Key

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