This species is named for the sandy flats, bays and estuaries where it's found. In fact, it’s the most common species of shark in the Chesapeake Bay! These sharks have a large first dorsal fin, large pectoral fins and a mid-dorsal ridge.
Like many other shark species, sandbar sharks give birth to live young. Their gestation period ranges from six to 12 months, when the mother gives birth to one to 14 pups per litter. Females mature at age 16 or older, and reproduce every two to three years.
A Note From the Caretaker
It’s interesting to watch a sandbar shark's eyes track things in its environment, such as other animals and décor, as it swims.
Learn more about the sandbar shark! Did you know that the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay are two of the most important nursery grounds for sandbar sharks in the western North Atlantic?
Sandbar sharks can be found in warm temperate to tropical coastal waters around the globe, including from New England to Brazil in the western Atlantic.
A sandbar shark’s diet typically consists of small bony fishes like menhaden, croaker and snapper, as well as crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. They also sometimes eat smaller sharks, rays and octopuses.
Sandbar sharks are typically about 20 to 24 inches at birth and can grow up to 8 feet long.
Because their population has declined quickly in recent years, the sandbar shark is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Because of the prominent size of their fins, sandbar sharks are valued highly in some of the world’s largest fish markets. Shark finning as well as bycatch have taken a toll on sandbar shark populations globally, although they are one of the most abundant species of large sharks in the Atlantic.
Other than humans, adult sandbar sharks have very few predators. Their slow growth, late sexual maturity and small number of offspring make this species very sensitive to overfishing and habitat degradation.
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The National Aquarium—and the aquatic world—is full of amazing animals like this one.