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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Sandtiger Shark Carcharias taurus

Also known as the ragged-tooth shark and the gray nurse shark, the sandtiger shark is fearsome to look at. It is heavily built and its daggerlike, menacing teeth protrude, even when its mouth is closed. Many people will have seen these sharks in aquariums, and they are quite docile in captivity despite their chilling appearance.

The sandtiger shark has a flattened, conical snout, is light brown in color, and its body is often speckled with darker spots. It lives in shallow coastal waters, especially on reefs and in rough, rocky areas with gullies and caves. Although it spends most of its time near the sea floor, it can hover in mid-water by filling its stomach with air gulped in at the surface.

The mother gives birth to two live young at a time, one from each of a pair of uteruses. Within each uterus there are many other embryos, and the strongest embryo in each uterus kills and eats its siblings along with any unfertilized eggs before it is born. Sandtiger sharks are widely hunted for both sport and food.


Primary threats to the sandtiger shark include overfishing, beach meshing and recreational fishing. Beach meshing is used around popular shorelines to protect swimmers from potentially dangerous sharks. However, sharks become entangled in the netting and can eventually die.

In the past, the sandtiger shark’s fierce appearance made it particularly vulnerable to sport fishing. The IUCN classifies the sandtiger shark as “Vulnerable.”

What Oceana Does

Oceana is working internationally to protect and restore shark populations. Through policy, science, legal and communications work, Oceana is pushing for true shark finning bans, species-specific shark management and reduced shark bycatch.

Sandtiger Sharkzoom image
  • Order Lamniformes
  • Length Up to 10 ft (3.2 m)
  • Weight Up to 350 lb (160 kg)
  • Depth 0–625 ft (0–190 m)
  • Distribution Warm-temperate and tropical coastal waters, except eastern Pacific
Sandtiger Shark habitat mapzoom image