What Are Sand Sharks?


The sand shark, a member of the Carchariidae family, is on the protected species list in the United States, as of 2011. Sand sharks, which inhabit the Atlantic Ocean, can live to be more than 15 years old. They are different from most sharks in that they have a second dorsal fin near the anal fin. Another notable difference is that the anal fin is nearly as large as the first dorsal fin.

Native Regions

  • Sand sharks are found mainly in coastal waters of the Atlantic, from Maine to Brazil and from the Mediterranean to South Africa. One of the most densely-populated areas for sand sharks is the Gulf of Maine, between the state of Maine and Nova Scotia. Sand sharks tend to live on the ocean floor, surfacing only for air and food.

Physical Traits

  • Adult sand sharks can sometimes grow to be 8 feet long. They are quite light for their size, sometimes weighing up to 250 lbs. They also have the ability to store air in their stomachs, allowing them to float motionless in the water while they search for prey. The typical sand shark is gray, with a white underside and small yellow spots along its body. Sand sharks often swim with their mouths open and their teeth protruding, giving them a menacing appearance.


  • Though the sand shark may appear menacing, it is actually quite the opposite. Though they have large teeth, sand sharks in U.S. waters are considered harmless. In the Mediterranean there have been accounts of sand shark attacks, but in North America there have been no such reports. Sand sharks tend to eat numerous small fish such as striped bass, bluefish and flounder. They typically feed at night, sometimes in packs.

Protection Status

  • Sand sharks are classified as a "threatened" species. Though their exact numbers are unknown, researchers know the population is dwindling. One of the biggest reasons may be the fishing industry. For many years, these sharks were hunted as trophies and by fisheries for the oils produced by their livers. Another major reason is their extremely low reproduction rate. Sand sharks reproduce at one of the lowest rates of any shark.

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