Triaenodon obesus Click to enlarge image
Whitetip Reef Sharks at a depth of 14m, North Horn, Osprey Reef, Coral Sea, December 2000. Note that the female at the lower right of the image has bite marks in front of the pectoral fin. These are presumably the result of a recent mating. Image: E. Schlögl
© E. Schlögl

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    The species is reported to grow to 2.13 m in length but adults over 1.6 m long are rarely seen.


As its common name suggests, the Whitetip Reef Shark has white tips to some of the fins. The tips of the first dorsal fin and upper caudal fin lobe are always brilliant white. Those of the second dorsal fin and lower caudal fin lobe are sometimes white.


The Whitetip Reef Shark is a slender species with a short, blunt snout. It is brownish-grey above fading to whitish below. There are scattered dark grey spots on the sides of the body.

The tips of the first dorsal fin and upper caudal fin lobe are brilliant white. The tip of the second dorsal fin and lower caudal fin lobe are sometimes white.


It is found in tropical marine waters often associated with coral reefs or lying on the bottom in caves and under ledges.


It is found widely throughout the Indo-Pacific. In Australia it is recorded from north-western Western Australia, around the tropical north and south to the southern Queensland coast.

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.

Danger to humans

The Whitetip Reef Shark is a curious species that often approaches divers. It is not considered dangerous to people.


  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. Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 4, Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 2 - Carcharhiniformes: 251-655.
  4. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  5. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 1994 Sharks and Rays of Australia. CSIRO. Pp. 513.
  6. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.