Animal Species:Blacktip Reef Shark, Carcharhinus melanopterus (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824)

The Blacktip Reef Shark gets it's common name from the distinct black tips of the first dorsal fin and lower caudal fin lobes. It is found in shallow marine waters around coral reefs and is not considered dangerous to people due to its small size.

Standard Common Name

Blacktip Reef Shark


The Blacktip Reef Shark can be recognised by its colouration. It is yellow-brown to grey above, white below and has a dark stripe running from below the first dorsal fin to above the ventral fin.

The first dorsal fin and lower caudal fin lobes have distinct black tips. The black tip of the dorsal fin is sometimes highlighted by a white band below it. All other fins usually have smaller black tips.

Size range

The Blacktip Reef Shark grows to about 1.8 m in length although in Australia it only reaches 1.4 m.


The species occurs throughout the tropical Indo-West and Central Pacific. In Australia it is recorded from the central coast of Western Australia around the tropical north and south to southern Queensland.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information.  Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Carcharhinus melanopterus

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Blacktip Reef Shark specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?


It is found in shallow marine waters usually in association with coral reefs.

Danger to humans and first aid

It is not considered dangerous to people because of its small size.  Watch the video below to see a Blacktip Reef Shark swimming up to divers.



What does this mean?


  1. Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 292.
  2. Allen, G.R. & R. Swainston. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 201.
  3. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  4. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 1994 Sharks and Rays of Australia. CSIRO. Pp. 513.
  5. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.

Mark McGrouther , Senior Fellow
Last Updated:

Tags fish, ichthyology, Blacktip Reef Shark, Carcharhinus melanopterus, Carcharhinidae, black tips on dorsal fin, black tips, adult, coral reef, harmless, small size, shallow water, marine, yellow-brown, grey, white underside, dark stripe, > 1m, tropical water,