Sandbar Shark

(Carcharhinus plumbeus)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific Ocean, the Western and Eastern Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mediterranean Sea. They favor shallow inshore waters down to 200 feet and are rarely seen at the surface.

Size: Females up to 8 feet; males up to 6 feet. Up to 250 pounds.

Wild Diet: Bottom fish, shrimp, crab, crustaceans, and mollusks

Predators: Humans. Juveniles may fall prey to larger sharks, including the bull shark.

Lifespan: 20-50 years

Reproduction: Sandbar sharks are viviparous, meaning that their young are born live rather than hatching from an egg. After fertilization takes place, gestation can range from 9-12 months. Newborn pups are less than 2 feet long and stay in shallow, coastal nursery grounds until they are large enough to move into deeper waters.

Behavior: Because they prefer smaller prey and avoid beaches, sandbar sharks pose little threat to humans. They migrate seasonally and these movements are determined mainly by temperature, though it is believed that ocean currents also play a significant role. They migrate along the Atlantic coast from the southern to northern United States; males migrate earlier and in deeper water than females.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Vulnerable

Increased recreational fishing and a heightened demand for shark fins and meat in the 1980s had a profound adverse effect on the numbers of sandbar sharks in the southwestern Atlantic. However, there has been a slight rise in population numbers in recent years due to fishery regulations and a decrease of large predatory sharks.

Did you know?

  • Shark scales are made of the same material as their teeth. Scientists call these special scales dermal denticles, which means "skin-teeth".
  • Sharks play a very important role in marine ecosystems. Many species sit at the top of the food web, keeping other marine animal populations in check. Some sharks feed on the sick and weak, which helps prey populations to stay healthy.