An active, aggressive predator, the Caribbean reef shark preys upon bony fish, large crustaceans, and other elasmobranchs, dwelling on or near the ocean floor (1). Prey is located using acute eyesight, a keen sense of smell, and specialised organs around the head that detect electric vibrations, and subsequently captured in sharp, serrated teeth, after a sudden, sideways snap of the crushing jaw (2). Between hunting forays, the Caribbean reef shark may be observed lying motionless on the ocean floor, a behaviour leading to the species being given the nickname, the ‘sleeping shark’ (5). The Caribbean reef shark may itself fall prey to larger sharks, such as the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) and the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) (3).
The Caribbean reef shark is viviparous, giving birth to four to six live young during the summer months, after a gestation period of around one year. During mating, the males are extremely aggressive, and pregnant females are often seen with large scars on the sides of the body from biting. Females may travel to nursery grounds to give birth, with possible sites off the coast of northeast Brazil (3). Juveniles prefer shallow waters that offer safety from predators, sheltering during the day and foraging at night (6).