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Sand Tiger Shark

Carcharias taurus

Distinguishing Characteristics

Illustration of a sand shark showing important characteristics
  • Snout short and conical
  • Light brown with irregular dark spots on body
  • First dorsal fin starts well behind pectoral fin
  • First and second dorsal fins of equal size
  • All 5 gill slits are in front of the pectoral fin
  • Small eyes and a long mouth that extends behind the eyes
  • No interdorsal ridge  


Maximum size about 10.5 feet. Matures at approximately 6-7 feet (4-6 years old) and is estimated to live 41+ years.


Coastal waters near bays and in deeper waters around reef areas. Migrates towards higher latitudes during summer months and spends the fall/winter in equatorial areas.


Feeds on a variety of small fishes including herrings, flatfish, eels, mullets, snappers, stingrays and small sharks. Also known to consume squids, crabs, and lobsters.


Mating occurs in aggregations during early spring and after eight to nine months of gestation, females give birth to live young in shallow, nearshore areas. Broods initially contain up to seven embryos, but pups become cannibalistic inside the womb and consume their siblings until two remain (one per uterus). Size at birth about 3 feet.

Additional Information

This species is prohibited from commercial and recreational harvest in Florida state waters. Does well in captivity and is popular with aquariums due to their fierce appearance. They have been known to bite when provoked, especially during spearfishing as they steal fish off stringers. Has been involved in only a few fatal bites on humans.

Recreational Regulations

Image Credit: © Diane Rome Peebles