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Caribbean Reef Shark

Carcharhinus perezii

Distinguishing Characteristics

Illustration of a Caribbean reef shark showing important characteristics
  • Back dark gray to gray-brown, fading to a white belly
  • Snout short and bluntly rounded
  • First dorsal fin starts over pectoral fin free tip
  • Fins dusky-colored, with very short free tip on second dorsal fin
  • Interdorsal ridge present

Similar Species: Dusky shark, C. obscurus (longer free tip on second dorsal fin); bull shark, C. leucas (no interdorsal ridge); and sandbar shark, C. plumbeus (first dorsal fin starts in front of pectoral fin insertion) 


Maximum size is approximately 8-9 feet.  Recent studies have aged mature individuals at approximately 4-5 years of age (about 5 feet) and they are estimated to live up to 14+ years.


Found near coral reefs in the Caribbean and off South America; rarely found north of the Florida Keys.  Sometimes found lying motionless in coral caves and resting on the bottom of the sea floor. 


Feed mainly on a variety of fishes associated with reef habitat (barracuda, jacks, snapper, grunts, needlefish, trumpetfishes, and octopus).


After approximately 1 year of gestation, females give birth to live young in shallow bays and coastal lagoons. Broods contain 4-6 pups. Size at birth about 2.4 feet.

Additional Information

Protected in Florida state waters and prohibited from harvest in U.S. waters, but now valued more as a living resource for eco-tourism purposes than food due to their accumulation of toxic levels of methylmercury and other heavy metals in their muscle tissue, making them less desirable as marketable flesh. Infrequently associated with shark bites on humans.

Recreational Regulations



Image Credit: © Diane Rome Peebles