Sand Tiger Shark

(Carcharias taurus)

Habitat and Distribution: Found near rocky outcroppings in shallow inshore waters across most of the world’s oceans except for the eastern Pacific. They occasionally enter freshwater.

Size: 4-12 feet long; up to 350 pounds

Wild Diet: Small fish such as mackerel, menhaden, flounder, and sea trout; also skates, crabs, lobster and squid

Predators: Humans and large fish such as barracuda, sandbar sharks, great hammerhead sharks, king mackerel, and moray eels

Reproduction: Sand tiger sharks are ready to mate when they are about 6-7 feet long and tend to breed between November and February. They are ovoviviparous, meaning that eggs develop and hatch in the mother’s body and the young are born live. Sand tiger shark embryos gestate for 8-9 months and they are ovophagous, meaning that they eat other eggs in the uterus so that only embryo survives per uterus. Female sandtiger sharks have two uteruses, so they almost always have two pups, usually born in early spring near rocky coastal reefs. Pups are born fully developed but about half the size of their mother and they can immediately fend for themselves.

Behavior: Sand tiger sharks are sedentary, nocturnal and territorial, usually hovering around coral or rock crevices and sometimes seen near shipwrecks. When free swimming, they usually skirt along the outcroppings of coral reefs. They gulp air at the surface and hold it in their stomachs to help them float.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Vulnerable

Sand tiger sharks are currently regulated on the east coast of the United States and in a few other parts of the world. They are still recovering from overfishing in Australia and South Africa. Sharks in general reproduce slowly, bear few young at a time, have a long gestation period, and swim great distances to find a mate. So it takes years for their populations to recover from overfishing.

Did you know?

  • Sand tiger sharks have so many teeth that they can’t close their mouths all the way.
  • While some may think they look scary, sand tiger sharks are harmless.
  • Shark attacks are extremely rare; you are more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a shark. There were only seven shark-related human deaths in 2012 compared to around 73 million sharks killed annually by people.