Project Description

Sand Tiger Shark

Carcharias taurus

Aquarium Location

Ocean

Habitat

Can be found at different levels of the ocean but tend to hover near the bottom, sheltered by rocky outcroppings, old ships, or caves. They can be solitary or swim in small schools.

Range

Sand tiger sharks range from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico in North America, and are most common from Cape Cod to Delaware Bay in warmer months.

Diet

Sand tigers will eat a wide variety of fish, including spot, croaker, mullet, speckled trout, black sea bass and skates and rays. Sometimes they will work together in groups of 3 or 4 to herd schools of fish during feeding. The sand tiger will also eat crustaceans and squid.

Fun Facts

Are sluggish, slow swimmers.
Sharks do not have a swim bladder to maintain buoyancy. Instead, they have large liver (up to 25% of the shark’s weight) containing high-density molecules of oil that aids in buoyancy control.
Oil in the liver was burned for light before electricity.
Have been known to gulp air at the surface to augment the lack of swim bladders, ultimately achieving neutral buoyancy; this allows them to hover motionless near the bottom.
Are nocturnal, hunting mostly at night.

Cool Adaptation

Everybody knows that sharks have sharp teeth and strong jaws for feeding. You could even say that these mouthparts have made sharks famous, or infamous. What you may not know is that shark teeth are like the conveyer belt of dentistry. Sharks frequently lose their teeth as a result of violently biting down on and shaking a potential prey item (humans are NOT included on this menu). Luckily for the shark, they have rows of teeth that are ready to move into position, taking the place of lost teeth. Sharks on average go through about 1,000 teeth per year and some sharks have been known to go through as many as 30,000 teeth in their lifetime. In addition, different species of sharks have different kinds of teeth. Sand tiger sharks are also known as “ragged tooth” sharks or raggies because of the way that this shark swims with its mouth open, displaying its rows of needle-like teeth.

Conservation Connection

The sand tiger is widely distributed but its populations are now isolated. Current data shows that these isolated populations are in decline. This decline is thought to be a result of the hunting of sharks for meat, oil, and skins. The meat is prized in Japan and some sharks are taken just for their fins, which are dried for shark fin soup. In the 18th and 19th centuries sharks were killed for the oils that are found in their livers. These oils were burned to give off light. The tiger shark has suffered from hunting because it has a very low reproductive rate. The sand tiger shark only has one or two young every two years. The United States and Australia have started special regulations of the fishing industry to control the number of sharks taken during the year. Management plans need to be created in other countries to help protect this species.