In Belize, recorded throughout the Belize Barrier Reef including the marine reserves of Half Moon Caye and Blue Hole (Lighthouse Reef Atoll) (Graham et al. in prep), Gladden Spit (Graham and Burgess 2004) and Glover's Reef Atoll (Pikitch et al. submitted). Neonate, juvenile and adult reef sharks are found at several sites throughout the Barrier Reef (Glover's Reef Atoll, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Gladden Spit).
In Cuba, recorded in the Jardines de la Reina Archipelago and marine reserve (Graham and Pina 2004). Neonate, juvenile and adult reef sharks are commonly encountered in the Jardines de la Reina Archipelago. All sites studied in Belize and Cuba are partially or entirely encompassed in marine protected areas. However only Jardines de la Reina bans shark fishing within its borders.
In Venezuela it is one of the most frequent and abundant shark species at oceanic islands such as Los Roques (Cervigón and Alcalá 1999). It is also one of the most abundant sharks around the Bahamas and the Antilles.
In Colombia, recorded from Rosario islands, Tayrona park, La Guajira and San Andrés Archipelago (Acero and Santos-Martínez 1992, Caldas 2002, Rey and Acero in press).
In Brazil, recorded from the States of Amapá, Pará, Maranhão, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Bahia, Espírito Santo, Paraná and Santa Catarina, and from the oceanic islands of Atol das Rocas, Fernando de Noronha and Trindade, and from the reef formations of Parcel Manuel Luiz and Abrolhos (Lessa et al. 1999, Sampaio et al. 2000, Garla and Amorim 2000, Rocha and Rosa 2001, Soto 2001). This species is protected at the Atol das Rocas Biological Reserve, at Fernando de Noronha and Abrolhos national marine parks, and at the Parcel Manuel Luiz state marine park.
Glover's Reef (Belize), Gladden Spit (Belize), Jardines de la Reina (Cuba), Atol das Rocas (Brazil) and Fernando de Noronha (Brazil) archipelagos all appear to encompass breeding, pupping and nursery grounds, based on catches of neonate, juvenile and adult sharks. Parcel Manoel Luiz, Abrolhos and Trindade are possibly other nursery areas in Brazil (Garla et al., in prep).
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Catalog Number: USNM 37141
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Collector(s): T. Bean
Year Collected: 1885
Locality: Caribean Sea: Off Yucatan, Cozumel, Yucatan, Mexico, Caribbean Sea, Atlantic
- Type: Bigelow, H. B. & Schroeder, W. C. 1944. Proceedings of the New England Zoological Club. 23: 30, pls. 9-10.
Habitat and Ecology
Caribbean reef sharks are caught mostly in forereef and deeper lagoonal areas and rarely in the shallow lagoons in Belize's Glover's Reef (Pikitch et al. submitted), Lighthouse Reef (Graham et al. in prep) and Cuba's Jardines de la Reina (Graham and Pina in prep). Although intraspecific variation in reef use exists between juveniles and adults at Glover's Reef (Pikitch et al. submitted), and between males and females at Jardines de la Reina (Graham and Pina in prep), neonate, juvenile and adult habitat overlap at Belize's Glover's Reef Atoll (Pikitch et al. submitted), Gladden Spit (Graham and Burgess 2004) and in Cuba's Jardines de la Reina Archipelago (Graham and Pina in prep) where all three size classes have been caught in forereef sites. Although adults are rarely found in shallow lagoons and juveniles are found in both lagoons and forereef areas, acoustic taqging supports overall species preference for forereef areas at Glover's Reef (Chapman et al. submitted). In Jardines de la Reina, preliminary results further suggest sexual segregation between adults along two forereef sites located within
Size at birth is from 60 to 75 cm TL (Castro 1983). Maximum size about 295 cm TL (Compagno 1984). Reproduction is placental viviparous. Difference in the size at maturity exist with 150 to 170 cm TL at Glover's Reef (Belize) recorded by Pikitch et al. (submitted) and 170 cm TL (males) and ~200 cm TL (females) noted by Compagno (in prep b). Litter size is 3 to 6 pups and gestation period is ~1 year (Compagno in prep. b). Reproductive periodicity is biennial (Castro et al. 1999). Sex ratios from 102 sharks captured at Glover's Reef Atoll were even from May to July (2000-2004).
Diet appears to include a wide range of reef fishes and some elasmobranchs. Stomach contents analysis in several sites reveals consumption of bony fishes (scarids, carangids and serranids) and elasmobranchs such as Aetobatus narinari and Urobatis jamaicensis (D. Chapman pers. comm.). In Fernando de Noronha archipelago, Brazil, specimens of the teleosts Caranx latus, Sparisoma spp. and Cephalopholis fulva were observed in stomach contents (R. Garla pers. comm). In Manoel Luis reefs, remains of Scaridae and cephalopods were found in stomach contents (Motta et al. 1999).
Movement is more extensive than previously thought on both the horizontal and vertical planes. Using acoustic telemetry, Chapman et al. (submitted) determined that one animal traveled 30 km over deep (400 m) waters from Glover's Reef Atoll to neighboring Lighthouse Reef Atoll. Within 30 hours the same individual returned to a site at Glover's at least 50 km from the Lighthouse receiver site. On the other hand, 14 sharks fitted with acoustic transmitters in Fernando de Noronha archipelago (Brazil) showed little movement and high site fidelity, half of them remaining within areas of 0.7 km² and the other half traveling less than 3.3 km, mainly during the night (Garla et al. submitted for publication).
Habitat Type: Marine
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 7 samples.
Depth range (m): 20 - 300
Temperature range (°C): 16.273 - 27.777
Nitrate (umol/L): 0.176 - 9.766
Salinity (PPS): 35.933 - 36.324
Oxygen (ml/l): 3.934 - 4.553
Phosphate (umol/l): 0.063 - 0.708
Silicate (umol/l): 1.630 - 4.409
Depth range (m): 20 - 300
Temperature range (°C): 16.273 - 27.777
Nitrate (umol/L): 0.176 - 9.766
Salinity (PPS): 35.933 - 36.324
Oxygen (ml/l): 3.934 - 4.553
Phosphate (umol/l): 0.063 - 0.708
Silicate (umol/l): 1.630 - 4.409
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.
Recorded at 65 meters.
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Carcharhinus perezii
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
-- end --
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Carcharhinus perezii
Public Records: 12
Specimens with Barcodes: 21
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
In Belize, reef sharks are caught on hook and line primarily as bycatch in the artisanal snapper or grouper fisheries. Pressure is maintained on these populations through local, national and international trade: Asian buyers purchase dried fins for up to USD 37.5/lb and meat is sold in Belize and adjoining Mexico and Guatemala for USD 1.25-1.75/lb to make "panades" (tortilla-like confection). A dedicated shark fishery operated from several points throughout Belize (San Pedro, Sarteneja, Punta Gorda, Placencia, Dangriga) existed from the mid-1900s to the early 1990s. Dramatic declines in catches of all shark species including reef sharks led many dedicated shark fishers to switch effort to other species, change occupation or retire (Graham, unpublished data).
In Cuba, shark landings peaked in 1981 at 3,076t and have declined since. Although landings of Caribbean reef sharks are not disaggregated from all shark landings, catches of coastal shark species including reef-associated sharks predominated between 1986-1990 (1,187t or 54.2% of landings). Despite a decrease in the total landings for all species between 1981-2003, coastal shark species accounted for 82% of all captures between 1994-2003.
In Colombia, it is frequently captured in the bottom longline fishery of San Andrés Archipelago where it is the most common shark species, representing 39% of the catch by occurrence. Sizes of ~90-180 cm TL are taken in this fishery (Caldas 2002).
Additionally, coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean are suffering damage from bleaching, disease and physical impacts (see for example, Garzón-Ferreira and Rodriguez-Ramírez 2001), which may affect Carcharhinus perezi through habitat degradation and loss.
Utilized for human consumption, leather (skin), oil (livers) and fishmeal (from carcasses) (Compagno in prep. b). In the San Andrés Archipelago bottom longline fishery in Colombia the fins, jaws (for ornamental purposes) and liver (for oil) are utilized, while the meat is only occasionally used as it is not easily marketed. A gallon of liver oil is sold for USD 40-50, jaws for USD 50-60 (specimen >150 cm TL) and a pound of fins for US$45-55 (Caldas 2002). In Belize dried fins are sold to Asian buyers for USD 37.50/lb and meat if sold to Belizeans, Mexicans, Guatemalans and Hondurans for ~USD 1.25-1.75/lb (Graham, unpublished data).
This species forms the basis of several shark feeding tour operations throughout the Caribbean including Belize, Bahamas and Cuba. Although known to be lucrative - prompting the activity and strong opposition to feeding bans - the Caribbean reef shark feeding industry has not yet been quantitatively valued.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Caribbean reef shark
The Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezii) is a species of requiem shark, belonging to the family Carcharhinidae. It is found in the tropical waters of the western Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Brazil, and is the most commonly encountered reef shark in the Caribbean Sea. With a robust, streamlined body typical of the requiem sharks, this species is difficult to tell apart from other large members of its family such as the dusky shark (C. obscurus) and the silky shark (C. falciformis). Distinguishing characteristics include dusky-colored fins without prominent markings, a short free rear tip on the second dorsal fin, and tooth shape and number.
Measuring up to 3 m (10 ft) long, the Caribbean reef shark is one of the largest apex predators in the reef ecosystem, feeding on a variety of fishes and cephalopods. They have been documented resting motionless on the sea bottom or inside caves, unusual behavior for an active-swimming shark. If threatened, it may perform a threat display in which it frequently changes direction and dips its pectoral fins. Like other requiem sharks, it is viviparous with females giving birth to 4–6 young every other year. Caribbean reef sharks are of some importance to fisheries as a source of meat, leather, liver oil, and fishmeal, but recently they have become more valuable as an ecotourist attraction. In the Bahamas and elsewhere, bait is used to attract them to groups of divers in controversial "shark feedings". This species is responsible for a small number of attacks on humans. The shark attacks only happen usually in the spring/summer part of the year.
Taxonomy and phylogeny
The Caribbean reef shark was originally described as Platypodon perezi by Felipe Poey in 1876, in the scientific journal Anales de la Sociedad Española de Historia Natural. The type specimens were six individuals caught off the coast of Cuba. The genus Platypodon was synonymized with Carcharhinus by later authors.
Based on morphological similarities, Jack Garrick in 1982 grouped this species with the bignose shark (C. altimus) and the sandbar shark (C. plumbeus), while Leonard Compagno in 1988 placed it as the sister species of the grey reef shark (C. amblyrhynchos). A phylogenetic analysis based on allozyme data, published by Gavin Naylor in 1992, indicated that the Caribbean reef shark is the sister taxon to a clade formed by the Galapagos shark (C. galapagensis), dusky shark (C. obscurus), oceanic whitetip shark (C. longimanus), and the blue shark (Prionace glauca). However, more work is required to fully resolve the interrelationships within Carcharhinus.
Distribution and habitat
The Caribbean reef shark occurs throughout the tropical western Atlantic Ocean, from North Carolina in the north to Brazil in the south, including Bermuda, the northern Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. However, it is extremely rare north of the Florida Keys. It prefers shallow waters on or around coral reefs, and is commonly found near the drop-offs at the reefs' outer edges. This shark is most common in water shallower than 30 m (98 ft), but has been known to dive to 378 m (1240 feet).
A heavy-bodied shark with a "typical" streamlined shape, the Caribbean reef shark is difficult to distinguish from other large requiem shark species. It usually measures 2–2.5 m (6.5–8 ft) long; the maximum recorded length is 3 m (10 ft) and the maximum reported weight is 70 kg (154 lbs). The coloration is dark gray or gray-brown above and white or white-yellow below, with an inconspicuous white band on the flanks. The fins are not prominently marked, and the undersides of the paired fins, the anal fin, and the lower lobe of the caudal fin are dusky.
The snout is rather short, broad, and rounded, without prominent flaps of skin beside the nostrils. The eyes are large and circular, with nictitating membranes (protective third eyelids). There are 11–13 tooth rows in either half of both jaws. The teeth have broad bases, serrated edges, and narrow cusps; the front 2–4 teeth on each side are erect and the others increasingly oblique. The five pairs of gill slits are moderately long, with the third gill slit over the origin of the pectoral fins. The first dorsal fin is high and falcate (sickle-shaped). There is a low interdorsal ridge running behind it to the second dorsal fin, which is relatively large with a short free rear tip. The origin of the first dorsal fin lies over or slightly forward of the free rear tips of the pectoral fins, and that of the second dorsal fin lies over or slightly forward of the anal fin. The pectoral fins are long and narrow, tapering to a point. The dermal denticles are closely spaced and overlapping, each with five (sometimes seven in large individuals) horizontal low ridges leading to marginal teeth.
Biology and ecology
Despite its abundance in certain areas, the Caribbean reef shark is one of the least-studied large requiem sharks. They are believed to play a major role in shaping Caribbean reef communities. These sharks are more active at night, with no evidence of seasonal changes in activity or migration. Juveniles tend to remain in a localized area throughout the year, while adults range over a wider area.
Caribbean reef sharks are sometimes seen resting motionless on the sea floor or inside caves; it is the first active shark species in which such a behavior was reported. In 1975, Eugenie Clark investigated the famed "sleeping sharks" inside the caves at Isla Mujeres off the Yucatan Peninsula, and determined that the sharks were not actually asleep as their eyes would follow divers. Clark speculated that freshwater upwellings inside the caves might loosen parasites on the sharks and produce an enjoyable "narcotic" effect. If threatened, Caribbean reef sharks sometimes perform a threat display, in which they swim in a short, jerky fashion with frequent changes in direction and repeated, brief (1–1.2 second duration) drops of the pectoral fins. This display is less pronounced than the better-known display of the grey reef shark (C. amblyrhynchos).
Juvenile Caribbean reef sharks are preyed upon by larger sharks such as the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) and the bull shark (C. leucas). Few parasites are known for this species; one is a dark variegated leech often seen trailing from its first dorsal fin. Off northern Brazil, juveniles seek out cleaning stations occupied by yellownose gobies (Elacatinus randalli), which clean the sharks of parasites while they lie still on the bottom. Horse-eye jacks (Caranx latus) and bar jacks (Carangoides ruber) routinely school around Caribbean reef sharks.
The Caribbean reef shark feeds on a wide variety of reef-dwelling bony fishes and cephalopods, as well as some elasmobranchs such as eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari) and yellow stingrays (Urobatis jamaicensis). It is attracted to low-frequency sounds, which are indicative of struggling fish. In one observation of a 2 m (6.6 ft) long male Caribbean reef shark hunting a yellowtail snapper (Lutjanus crysurus), the shark languidly circled and made several seemingly "half-hearted" turns towards its prey, before suddenly accelerating and swinging its head sideways to capture the snapper at the corner of its jaws. Young sharks feed on small fishes, shrimps, and crabs. Caribbean reef sharks are capable of everting their stomachs, which likely serves to cleanse indigestible particles, parasites, and mucus from the stomach lining.
Reproduction is viviparous; once the developing embryos exhaust their supply of yolk, the yolk sac develops into a placental connection through which they receive nourishment from their mother. Mating is apparently an aggressive affair, as females are often found with biting scars and wounds on their sides. At the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago and Atol das Rocas off Brazil, parturition takes place at the end of the dry season from February to April, while at other locations in the Southern Hemisphere, females give birth during the Amazon summer in November and December. The average litter size is four to six, with a gestation period of one year. Females become pregnant every other year. The newborns measure no more than 74 cm (29 in) long; males mature sexually at 1.5–1.7 m (60–66 in) long and females at 2–3 m (79–116 in).
Normally shy or indifferent to the presence of divers, the Caribbean reef shark has been known to become aggressive in the presence of food and grows sufficiently large to be considered potentially dangerous. As of 2008, the International Shark Attack File lists 27 attacks attributable to this species, 4 of them unprovoked, and none fatal.
This species is taken by commercial and artisanal longline and gillnet fisheries throughout its range. It is valued for meat, leather, liver oil, and fishmeal. The Caribbean reef shark is the most common shark landed in Colombia (accounting for 39% of the longline catch by occurrence), where it is utilized for its fins, oil, and jaws (sold for ornamental purposes). In Belize, this species is mainly caught as bycatch on hook-and-line intended for groupers and snappers; the fins are sold to the lucrative Asian market and the meat sold in Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala to make "panades", a tortilla-like confection. A dedicated shark fishery operated in Belize from the mid-1900s to the early 1990s, until catches of all species saw dramatic declines. The flesh of this species may contain high levels of methylmercury and other heavy metals.
A profitable ecotourism industry has arisen around this species involving organized "shark feeds", in which groups of reef sharks are attracted to divers using bait. Some US$6,000,000 is spent annually on shark viewing in the Bahamas, where at some sites a single living Caribbean reef shark has a value between US$13,000 and US$40,000 (compared to a one-time value of US$50–60 for a dead shark). This practice has drawn controversy, as opponents argue that the sharks may learn to associate humans with food, increasing the chances of a shark attack, and that the removal of reef fishes for bait may damage the local ecosystem. Conversely, proponents maintain that shark feeds contribute to conservation by incentivizing the protection of sharks and educating people about them. Thus far, there has been little evidence that shark feeds have increased the risk of attack in the surrounding area. Shark feeding has been outlawed off the coast of Florida, but continues at other locations in the Caribbean.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed the Caribbean reef shark as Near Threatened; its population has declined off Belize and Cuba from overfishing and exploitation continues in other regions. They are also threatened by the degradation and destruction of their coral reef habitat. Commercial fishing for this species is prohibited in United States waters. They are protected in the Bahamas due to their significance to ecotourism, as well as in a number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) off Brazil and elsewhere. However, enforcement against illegal fishing is lacking in some of these reserves, and many areas in which this species is abundant are not yet protected.
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