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Species guide

Sand tiger shark

Scientific name: Carcharias taurus

 

DESCRIPTION:

The sand tiger shark is a long, robust shark with a grey-brown colouring on its back with some stains, and a lighter colour on the belly. The head is small and flat on the top, and it has a shark beak and small eyes. It has 5 cuts in the skin on the two sides of the head, which protect the brachia, which are called brachial grooves. As with all of the sharks, its fins are rigid and the top of the tail is longer than the bottom. The two fins on the back, the dorsal fins, are more or less the same size. The sharks’ skin is covered with teeth-like scales called dermal dentricles, all turned towards the tail. All sharks have several rowns of teeth, and the sand tiger shark has 3 rows in each jaw. Its teeth are narrow, long and with a smooth edge, ideal for holding prey and swallowing it whole.

Its maximum size is 2.3 m.

 

BIOLOGY:

The sand tiger shark is a slow but steady swimmer and is most active at night. It has a highly migratory character and regulates its floating by swallowing air.

These sharks are highly voracious and consumer a large amount of vertebrate fish, both benthonic and great pelagic swimmers (including remoras). They also eat small sharks, rays, cephalopods and crustaceans and are therefore carnivores.

This is an oviparous animal, that is, which incubates its eggs in the maternal uterus. The males and females reach maturity at 220 cm, and present very active ovophagia and intrauterine conflict which limits births to 2 at a time, one per uterus. The gestation lasts 8-9 months.

 

HABITAT:

It is a shark that lives swimming near the shallow sandy beds, but which may go down to 190 m. It usually approaches the coast a great deal.

 

DISTRIBUTION:

Its distribution covers the tropical and temperate waters of the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Indian Ocean and eastern Pacific. Some of its populations carry out significant migrations.

 

STATUS:

Vulnerable species (according to the red list of threatened species).

 

CURIOSITIES:

Sharks’ livers contain an oil called squalene. As late as 1857 this oil was still used to light the lighthouse on the northern entrancr to Botany Bay and to light the houses in the neighbouring villages. At this time imported candles were too expensive for common use.

 

OBSERVATION:

Have you ever seen a shark’s teeth? If you look at the sand tiger shark, you can see its teeth.