Sand tiger shark - Carcharias taurus


Illustration © Marc Dando

Also known as the Raggedtooth Shark in Africa and the Grey Nurse Shark in Australia.

A stocky shark with protruding snaggle teeth. The shark has a pronounced hump to its back and both dorsal fins are about the same size.

Bronze to gray above, white below. May have brown blotches on its body.

Maximum size is 10.4 ft [3.18 m]. Adult males range from 7.2 to 8.4 ft [2.2 to 2.57 m]. Females range from 7.2 to 9.8 ft [2.2 to 3.0 m].

Large slender awl-shaped smooth-edged teeth with lateral cusplets.

Inshore from surf zone, shallow bays, rock and coral reefs, to at least 630 ft [190 m].

Warm and temperate waters throughout the world.


  • General – The shark will gulp air at the surface, presumably to achieve neutral buoyancy.

  • Prey – Primarily a fish eater, but it also feeds on crustaceans and squid.

  • Reproduction – Ovoviviparous. Embryos are ovophagous; smaller siblings are consumed and only one pup is born from each uterus. Size at birth is 3 to 3.4 ft [95 to 105 cm].

The shark often swims with its mouth ajar and its teeth visible. Divers usually see the shark close to the bottom, cruising 4 to 6 ft [1.2 to 1.8 m] above the sea floor, or hovering almost motionless in cuts in the reef or out on the sand where the current is strongest. Sexual segregation occurs with this species. The shark comes into the shallows at night to feed. This species is migratory, moving to deeper water in winter.

The shark is generally placid, despite its ferocious appearance. If approached too closely by a diver the shark will thump its tail with force, creating a loud booming sound that will make the diver’s ears ring.

In the cooler waters of this shark’s range, it has – on rare occasions – bitten people. In most cases, the sharks were agitated by spearfishing activities, attempted to steal a spearfisherman’s catch and (apparently) inadvertently nipped the diver, or simply blundered into a diver in low visibility.

Sand tiger sharks are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. They are protected in the United States, Australia, and New Guinea.