Sand Tiger Shark
Scientific name...........Carcharias Taurus
Other Common names..........Gray nurse shark and Ragged tooth shark
Depending on where you are in the world, the sandtiger shark may be
known as the spotted ragged tooth or gray nurse shark. It is one of
four species belonging to the sand tiger family, a group of large,
fearsome looking sharks that swim slowly with their mouths open.
Their bodies are stout, with two large dorsal fins. The elongated
tails have a long upper lobe; there is a precaudal pit but no caudal
keels. The sand tiger shark has a short, flattened snout. Its dorsal
fins are about equal in size, with the first located closer to the
pelvic fins than to the pectoral fins. Long gill openings in front
of pectoral fins.
Pups are born measuring 3.1 to 3.8 feet long, males mature at 7.2
feet and females at 7.2 to 9.4 feet. Sand tiger sharks can grow to a
maximum length of 10 to 12 feet.
There are three rows of large slender pointed teeth on each side of
the midline of the upper jaw.
It is bronzy above, gradually becoming paler below. Juveniles have
reddish or brownish spots scattered on the tail and rear of the
body, which tend to fade with age.
Their diet consists of many species of large and small bony fishes,
small sharks, rays, crustaceans, and squid. Most of its prey are
swallowed whole, rather than bitten into pieces, not surprising
considering the grasping, rather than cutting teeth of this shark.
They are a slow but strong swimmer, more active at night. Air
swallowed at the surface and held in stomach provides neutral
buoyancy, enabling the shark to hover in the water. Complex social,
courtship and mating behaviour studied in captivity and the wild.
May aggregate in schools of 20-80 for feeding ( observed to herd
prey fishes ), courtship, mating and birth. Some are highly
migratory, moving to cooler water in summer.
Sand tiger sharks are found in Western Atlantic, eastern Atlantic,
western Indian Ocean and western Pacific. Occur in shallow bays,
sandy coastal water, and rocky or tropical reefs from shallow waters
down to about 655 feet. Divers often find large numbers in
aggregations around rocky outcroppings in offshore waters.
These sharks are oviphagous, In each of the two uterine chambers,
the first embryo to hatch, at about 6 inches, kills and devours the
other developing siblings. The two embryos continue to feed on the
other eggs inside the separate uterine chambers. After the gestation
period of eight to nine months, the two live young are born, about 3
to 3.8 feet long.
Essentially gentle sharks, they usually become aggressive only if
According to the IUCN, they are vulnerable. Many populations are
seriously depleted. Critically Endangered in NSW, Australia, after
large numbers killed in sports and commercial fisheries and by
divers. Legally protected in many countries.