Sunday, 20 September 2015

The White- and Blacktip Reef Shark

Whitetip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus) can easily be identified by their white tipped fins, oval eyes with vertical pupils as well as their tubular skin flaps. Since it is a small shark they only grow to 1.6m. Due to the fact that they have the ability to pump water over their gills which allows them to lay still on the bottom, they are quite unique amongst the requiem sharks which need to constantly swim in order to breathe.

They tend to stay in the sam reef area  for month or even years and are most commonly found at depth of 8-40m. They are found all across the Indo-Pacific region and are preferably close to coral reefs.

This self-taken picture shows a blacktip baby reef shark (Carcharhinus Limbatus) and can easily be identified by their pointed snout and the black tips on their fins. This specie is maximal 2.9 meters in length and weighs about 130 kilograms as adults. The blacktip reef shark is found in warm and shallow water, close to coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific and Mediterranean Sea in depth of up to 80 meters. Their preferred water temperature is from 15C° to 24C°, therefore they are most likely near the surface.

The scenery of having them swimming around you is daily happening everywhere in the Maldives. This babies are completely harmless and will flee if you come to close, since they are more scared of you, than we are of them. I myself had the pleasure of observing how they are looking for their first catch, at close range. I was simply amazed when I got the chance to see them the first time! To be honest, I was kind of scared too in the beginning, however I am now able to say that they just extremely cute and its amusing to watch them. I still remember quite accurately a very funny situation of walking along the beach with my parents when we suddenly noticed a huge riot right next to us. The cause for this was really exciting to watch: about 4-5 blacktip baby reef sharks were trying to catch some fish by splitting up the swarm in order to close in on the now small groups.

This link to a video shows a similar situation:

Just as shown in the video "A lazy bystander tries to get in on the results".

Although it was really hard to capture this situation in a good way, I'm hoping that I am able to give you an idea of what was happening, through this picture.
The oceans are the most important ecosystem on the planet due to the fact that the life contained absorbs most of the carbon dioxide that we put into the atmosphere and photosynthesize it into 70% of the oxygen we breathe. Since "Sharks are top predators in their food chain" they are dreaded and are rather unwelcome. However they play an important ecological role on the marine environment, particularly on the coral reef, in a way an average fish does not. In the role of being at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of the ocean, they are keeping the population of other fish healthy and in proper proportion. Destroying shark populations has the potential to destroy the ecosystem 'ocean' which have survived for 450 million years, but some shark species may disappear within 10 years. We need sharks for a healthy ocean and planet. Therefore, sharks are absolutely essential in oder to maintain this healthy marine ecosystems. "Without them our oceans can’t survive. And without the oceans, we can’t survive."

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