Sand Tiger Sharks
Sand Tiger Sharks: Carcharius taurus
Sand tiger sharks are found throughout the world’s temperate oceans. In the North Atlantic region, they live from the Gulf of Maine to Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico in shallow, sandy waters to depths of over 600 feet.
Sand tiger sharks can grow to nearly 11 feet and weigh over 250 pounds. They are incredible hunters, with amazing adaptations for finding and capturing prey. For example, two thirds of their brain is dedicated just to the sense of smell, allowing sharks to detect odors up to a mile away. The shape of a shark's tooth depends on its diet. Sand Tigers use needle-like teeth to grasp smaller fish and swallow them whole. (Sharks with triangular, serrated teeth bite chunks from large prey; sharks with flat teeth crush shellfish.)
Probably one of the most sensitive shark adaptations is an organ called ampullae of Lorenzini. These fine, netlike electro-receptors are located on the shark’s head and detect the electrical impuleses that all living creatures emit -- even as little as one-millionth of a volt.
Virginia Aquarium Sand Tiger Sharks
The Aquarium has five sand tiger sharks in the Norfolk Canyon Aquarium. They co-exist with other species of sharks, as well as other fish and rays. The individual sharks are identified by unique physical characteristics, such as the number of notches on their dorsal fin.
Weighing in at just over 200 pounds and measuring 8 feet long, the largest of the Aquarium’s sharks is a female named Double Notch.
Over the years, almost all shark populations have declined significantly due to over fishing and exploitation. Primarily, sharks are fished for their meat and cartilage. Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world and their cartilage is often used in various medications. As with dolphins or sea turtles, sharks can be caught accidentally in fishing nets or on lines intended for other species of fish.
Destruction of their habitats caused by fisheries, pollution and other human activities can pose both immediate and long-term threats to these animals. Since these actions often impact nursing grounds, the future of many shark species is in danger. As these animals pose little to no threat to humans, it is important for the public to support the conservation of all shark species so that these incredible animals can survive and fill their critical role in ocean ecosystems.