Male whitetip reef sharks have been known to school in groups of nearly a hundred in pursuit of a female ready to mate. Mating in this particular species happens in autumn and winter. The sharks orient themselves parallel to each other and at about a 45 degree angle to the water column during copulation. They position themselves with their snouts in the sea floor, maintaining this vertical position with occasional simultaneous undulations of their bodies. The male then bites the pectoral fin of the female and inserts his clasper into the cloaca. This ritual of biting the female’s pectoral fin to hold position is common to several species.
Once the female is pregnant, the gestation period is thought to be about 5 months, however more research is needed in this area. The female gives birth to 2 or 3 live sharks of about 60 cm each.
Breeding interval: There is not sufficient evidence to indicate how often this species breeds.
Breeding season: Fertilization occurs seasonally in autumn and winter. This is between May and August in the Southern Hemisphere.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 5.
Average number of offspring: 2-3.
Average gestation period: 5 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 5 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 5 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 2920 days.
Because the whitetip reef shark is a viviparous species it gives birth to live young. While in the embryo stage, the juvenile receives all its nutrients from the mother via a yolk sac placenta. The female shark, having a litter of young sharks within her, is slower and less maneuverable making her more vulnerable to predators. All of the parental investment in this species is by the female, and it is all internal in embryo stage. Once the juveniles are born, they are completely independent and capable of fending for themselves.
Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
- 2004. Biology of Sharks and Their Relatives. Pp. 53, 74, 277, 281, 354 in J Carrier, J Musick, M Heithaus, eds. Biology of Sharks and Their Relatives. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
- Bright, M. 2002. Sharks. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
- Compagno, L. 1984. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the World. An Annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 2. Carcharhiniformes.. Grahamstown, South Africa: FAO Fish.Synop..
- Perrine, D. 1995. Sharks. Stillwater, Minnesota, USA: Voyageur Press.
- SeaWorld Inc., 2002. "Sharks And Their Relatives" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2004 at http://www.seaworld.org/infobooks/Sharks&Rays.
- Tricas, T., E. Feuvre. 1985. Mating in the reef white-tip shark Triaenodon obesus. Marine Biology, 84/3: 233-237.