Blacktip Shark

Blacktip Shark

Carcharhinus limbatus

Blacktip Shark species are known for their mass migrations off the Atlantic coast of the United States. Smithsonian scientists are tracking this species to gain a better understanding of factors that could influence the movement of this species.


Height: up to 1.9 m long (6.3 ft)

Weight: up to 49.5 kg (109 lbs)

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

Blacktip Sharks engage in aerial spinning displays, usually when feeding, that often make people confuse them with spinner sharks (Carcharhinus brevipinna).


Smithsonian scientists Matt Ogburn and Charles Bangley have been tracking Blacktip Sharks since 2016. Tagged individuals are outfitted with acoustic transmitters and have been seen moving within the Chesapeake Bay and along the eastern coast of the United States. Blacktips prefer inshore waters and can be found in waters 0-100 m (0-330 ft) deep, but they often prefer water that is only 0-30 m (0-100 ft) deep. This preference puts migrating blacktip sharks within range of acoustic arrays situated along the coast, providing more detailed movement data than is typical for other species ranging further from shore.

By tracking Blacktips, Smithsonian scientists can begin to understand the species’ motivations for moving, such as where they prefer to breed, their ideal water temperatures, and much more. This understanding could help establish refuges or provide support in favor or against offshore development that could impact their migration routes. Because these sharks are believed to have migration preferences influence by seasonal changes in temperature, tracking the species could also provide insight into the effects of climate change and shifting ocean conditions such as ocean acidification and sea level rise.

Meet the Team

Matt Ogburn, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator, Research Scientist
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Fish and Invertebrate Ecology Laboratory

Charles Bangley, Ph.D.

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Fish and Invertebrate Ecology Laboratory


Scholarly Articles

Castro, J. I. (1996). Biology of the Blacktip Shark, Carcharhinus limbatus, off the Southeastern United States. Bulletin of Marine Science, 59(3), 508–522.

Ogburn, M. B., Harrison, A.-L., Whoriskey, F. G., Cooke, S. J., Mills Flemming, J. E., & Torres, L. G. (2017). Addressing Challenges in the Application of Animal Movement Ecology to Aquatic Conservation and Management. Frontiers in Marine Science, 4(March), 70.