Sand Tiger Shark

(Carcharias taurus)

  • Animal Type

    Sharks and Rays

  • Exhibits

    Shark Alley

  • Range

    Atlantic Ocean

    Indian Ocean

    Pacific Ocean


The sand tiger shark is a large coastal species easily recognized by its pointed snout and mouthful of narrow, pointed teeth, which are always visible. Despite their intimidating appearance, they are not aggressive toward humans unless threatened. Adult sand tiger shark’s bodies are light brown to gray above and paler below. Young sand tiger sharks have small dark spots that become less obvious as they mature.

Sand tiger shark’s reproduction is unique because the first baby shark to develop in-utero eats or kills its siblings before birth.

A Note From the Caretaker

Sand tiger sharks at the National Aquarium are pole-fed a variety of fresh and frozen fish totaling about 2% of their body weight each week.

Quick Facts

Did you know that this shark adjusts its buoyancy by gulping and burping air?

Sand tiger sharks are widely distributed in all warm temperate to tropical coastal seas except the central and eastern Pacific. They are found near the shore, in mid-water, and at or near the bottom to depths of 625 feet.

Sand tiger sharks eat a variety of fishes, including smaller rays and sharks. They have narrow pointed teeth that are used to bite and hold onto prey before they swallow it whole.

While females grow larger than males, most reliable records for this species give a maximum total length of 10.5 feet and maximum weight of about 350 pounds.

Conservation alert! The sand tiger shark is listed as vulnerable globally by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and is critically endangered in some parts of the world. The sand tiger shark has one of the lowest known reproductive rates among sharks, giving birth to only one or two large pups every two to three years. As a result, their population growth and recovery from overfishing are slow.

Commercial and sport fisheries take a heavy toll on sand tiger sharks. Their meat is sold fresh, frozen, smoked, dried and for fishmeal. The liver is used for oil, fins are dried for the shark fin trade and the hide is used for leather. Aside from humans, their natural predators are primarily other large sharks.

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