They're slow-moving, but don't let that fool you. They are aggressive and dominate in feeding frenzies, and are known to frequent shipwrecks and air crashes. It is one of the top three most abundant oceanic sharks, which also include the blue shark (Prionace glauca) and the silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis). (Note: By this, the author means you are most likely to bump into these three sharks. Their populations are in heavy decline like most sharks.)
It's normally brown/olive-yellow with white smatterings on its fins and a creamy underbelly. What distinguishes this animal from other sharks are its long, rounded, white-tipped fins. It's these very same fins that are highly valued for shark fin soup, as they are quite large.
Their teeth vary from the upper/lower jaw. The upper jaw has broad, triangular, serrated teeth while the ones on the bottom jaw are pointed and only serrated at the tip. Groups of this species form usually when they all sniff out a particularly promising meal. They are a competitive, stubborn predator that exploits the meal at hand.
On the left is oceanic whitetip shark dentition, displaying A. Upper and lower teeth, left-hand side, B. Sixth upper tooth, C. Second lower tooth, D. Eighth lower tooth.
Scientists do know the mating seasons for this animal. It's early summer in the NW Atlantic and SW Indian Ocean, and females in Pacific have observed to have embryos all year round! Oceanic white tips are viviparous, and have a gestation period of one year. Litter sizes can vary from one to 15 pups.
Famed oceanographic researcher Jacques Cousteau once said the oceanic whitetip was "the most dangerous of all sharks". Despite "Jaws" giving great white sharks quite a bad rap, oceanic whitetips are suspected to be responsible for many fatal attacks on humans, as a result of predation on survivors of shipwrecks or crashed aircrafts. These aren't recorded, though, and therefore the oceanic whitetip does not have the highest number of recorded incidents; only 5 recorded attacks as of 2009. In the torpedoing of USS Indianapolis on July 30th 1945, these sharks are believed to be responsible for many, if not all, attacks on the survivors who survived the explosion. HOWEVER, most reportedly died from exposure to the elements rather than from shark attacks.
Although there is no oceanic whitetip shark conservation program/effort, data is trying to be collected on population declines, which can help point future conservation measures in the right direction.
Although their bad rap is just known to mostly scientists (the greater public getting hung up over great white sharks), I can't help but be completely captivated by their graceful movements in the ocean. They're marvelous and breathtaking, and I cannot wait to finally see one in the wild... someday. Soon, hopefully.
To see these animals in their natural habitat, check this video out: