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Sand Tiger Shark

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Sand Tiger Shark
Odontaspis taurus
or Eugomphodus taurus or Carcharias taurus

Photo modified from Sharks and Rays. TC Tricas, K Deacon, P Last, JE McCosker, TI Walker, L Taylor. 1997. Nature Company Guides, Time Life Book Series. Weldon Owen Pty Ltd San Francisco.

   The sand tiger shark has a stout body with two large dorsal fins that are almost equal in size and the first dorsal fin placed far back on the trunk of the body. The tail has an elongated upper lobe and no caudal keel. This shark appears bronze from above but is increasingly paler below. Juveniles have reddish or yellow-brown spots on the tail and rear end of the body that fade with age. The gill slits are anterior to the origin of the pectoral fins. Large teeth are arranged in three rows on each side of the upper jaw midline. The teeth themselves have long smooth, narrow-edged cusps with one or two small lateral denticles. This shark is able to achieve neutral buoyancy and hover in the water by storing surface air in its stomach. The maximum length attained for the sand tiger shark is 3.2 meters (10.5 feet), although it is generally between 1.2 and 2.7 meters in length. While menacing in appearance, this shark is generally considered to be harmless.

Diet

   Diet consists mainly of large and small bony fish, small sharks, rays, squid and crustaceans.

Reproduction

   The sand tiger is ovoviviparous, bearing 2 live young after a gestation period of 9 to 12 months; each is approximately 1 meter long. In each of the two separate uterine chambers the first embryo to hatch obtains its food by eating the other developing eggs.

Habitat

   The sand tiger shark is often found in sandy coastal waters, shallow bays, estuaries and rocky or tropical reefs. Although most often found in shallow waters they also swim down to depths of 200 meters.

Range

   There have only been three reported sightings of the sand tiger shark in Canadian waters. These sightings were in the Minas Basin of Nova Scotia, near St. Andrews, New Brunswick and off Point Lepreau, New Brunswick. The sand tiger shark also occurs in the eastern and western Atlantic, the Pacific and Indian Oceans and in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas.

Photo modified from Sharks. L Campagno, C Simpfendorfer, JE McCosker, K Holland, C Lowe, B Wetherbee, A Bush, and C Meyer. Readers Digest Series. 1998. Weldon Owen Pty Ltd., Pleasantville, NY.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Often swims with mouth open
  • Two dorsal fins almost equal in size
  • Caudal fin with elongated upper lobe and prominent subterminal notch
  • Juveniles have yellow-brown spots.

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