There is a lot of uncertainty regarding the mating habits of most shark species and the white tip reef shark is no exception. What has been observed is that mating appears to be initiated by males by grabbing one of the female shark’s pectoral fins. It is possible for more than one male to grab onto a female at a time. However, it appears that female white tip reef sharks are selective of who they mate with—any male who is fast enough can grab onto her pectoral fins, but not any male is permitted to mate with her. A female shark, if unwilling to mate, can arch her body away from the male so no genital contact can be made. This same behavior has been observed in female nurse sharks (Whitney et al., 2004). If a female does permit mating, fertilization can result in up to 5 embryos, which will later become pups (Education). It is unknown exactly how long the gestation period is, but most sources say either five months or twelve months. During this gestation period females increase greatly in size girth-wise because the white tip reef shark is such a slender species and because they can have such large litter sizes (Whitney et al., 2012). After this gestation period, the pups are born live (Education).

    The time of year during which these events—mating and birthing—occur vary depending on geographical location (Education). It appears, however, that birthing typically occurs in May and June (Whitney et al., 2012). However, in Enewetak Atoll, an island in the central Pacific Ocean, pupping seems to occur during winter months rather than late spring or early summer (Education) Mating season is estimated to be in April and May as males are more commonly found in shallow waters, where females are typically found, during this time. It is also more common to see mating wounds (bite marks around gills and pectoral fins) on female white tip reef sharks during these months. This means that mating season and pupping season overlap (Whitney et al., 2012). This is not surprising considering a possible gestation period of twelve months.

    Upon birth the pups measure from approximately 20 inches to approximately 24 inches long. They can grow to be as large as seven feet long over the course of their lives, but normally stay at lengths around five feet. In general the males are longer than the females of the same age, but the gap is not significant. The oldest age the shark has been known to achieve is 25 years (Education).

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