Sand sharks are a type of mackerel shark, like the goblin shark and megamouth shark. Members of the order, officially known as Lamniformes, have two dorsal fins, an anal fin, five-gill slits, and a mouth that extends behind the eyes. Great white sharks are another member of this order. 

Sand sharks are not dangerous. They are fairly slow-moving and have never been known to be aggressive toward humans with the intention of harming them. But like all sharks, they are likely willing to defend themselves if they are threatened by a human being. 


Size 

Sand sharks are not the largest shark species, but they are quite formidable when compared to most other ocean creatures. They grow to be around 10 feet or 3.2 meters long and weigh somewhere around 440 pounds or 200 kilograms. Male and female sharks are around the same size and live for about seven years on average. 

Appearance 

Sand sharks are colored in the traditional manner associated with these large predators. They are shades of brown and grey, with their upper half being darker than their underside. This is something that’s very common to large and small predators and is known as countershading. It allows the shark to blend into the light coming in through the surface of the water as well as the darkness below them. 

A sand shark and its countershading
A sand shark and its countershading

Credit: Richard Ling, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

When they’re young, sand sharks have dark markings on the upper half of their body as well. These disappear as the shark gets older. 

Teeth 

They have long, narrow teeth that are extremely sharp at the tip with smooth edges, making it very easy for the sharks to sink their teeth into their prey. They are perfect for catching and killing their main source of food— fish. 

Sand shark sharp teeth

Credit: Emmanuel Douzery, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license


Diet 

Sand sharks prey on fish, crustaceans, squid, and more. There are also some instances in which these sharks have been recorded attacking fishing nets. They’ve also been known to feed on smaller shark species. 

A species of sand shark deep swimming
A species of sand shark deep swimming

Sand sharks are also known for their interesting hunting behavior. When seeking out prey, they gulp in the air from the surface and hold it in their stomachs. This allows them to become buoyant and float toward their prey without making an independent movement. 

These sharks, like other species, are capable of using their ampullae of Lorenzini, a series of receptors in their snout, to sense the electrical current their prey gives off. This is often useful for this particular species of shark due to the increased time they spend near the ocean’s bottom, where much of their prey may be hiding in the sand. 

Habitat 

Sand sharks are named for their willingness to migrate toward the shoreline in whatever habitat they’ve chosen. They’re usually seen swimming close to the shore, near the bottom of the ocean floor. They’ll come very close to the shore and are usually seen in the surf zone. 

Their preferred habitat can be found throughout the world’s temperate and tropical oceans. But there are sections in the eastern Pacific where you won’t find these predators. 

Reproduction 

Sand sharks reproduce via internal fertilization. They give birth to two young every two years, which is far fewer than most other shark species. These sharks are known for having one of the lowest successful birth rates of any shark species. This is due mostly to a process known as intrauterine cannibalism, in which the embryos consume one another until only the largest remains. 

Threats 

Sand sharks (among many other shark species) are a target of shark hunting, particularly for their fins. Their meat is also sold in specific markets, mainly in Japan, in their liver oil in Australian markets. They’re also hunting for the aquarium trade, all practices which have been detrimental to wild, successful sand shark populations. 

Other issues include climate change, pollution, commercial bycatch in gill nets and bottom trawls, as well as erosion. The loss of coastal habitat has been particularly detrimental for this species. 

Between 1980 and 1990, the sharks expended an incredible decline, losing up to 75 percent of their numbers. Today, these sharks are considered to be vulnerable to extinction. 

Facts 

  • Sand sharks are not a threat to human beings despite their sharp teeth. 
  • They are often found in coastal areas. 
  • Sand sharks have one of the lowest reproduction rates of any shark species. 
  • They can detect the electrical signals their prey gives off with receivers in their snouts. 
  • Their diet consists primarily of fish, but they also eat squid, crustaceans, and smaller sharks. 
  • Sand sharks are threatened by shark hunting and bycatch. 
  • They are not known to attack humans. 


FAQs 

How big is a sand shark?

Sand sharks grow to be around 10 feet in length. They are not the smallest nor the largest shark in the earth’s oceans. They also reach around 440 pounds maximum. 

Why is it called a sand shark?

Sand sharks take their name from the fact that they are commonly found near the shore, hunting for food on the sandy bottom of the ocean floor. 

Are sand sharks harmful to humans?

No, sand sharks are not harmful to humans. They are slow-moving sharks that have no desire to interact with or eat human beings. But, like all animals, they may be aggressive if they feel their lives are in danger. 

Can sand sharks go on land?

No, sand sharks cannot go on land. Despite their misleading name, they are incapable of walking on land. They are named for the fact that they are usually found near the sandy bottom of the ocean floor along the coast of many different countries. 

Do sand sharks lay eggs? 

No, sand sharks do not lay eggs. They give birth to live young like most shark species do. But, these sharks are known for their very low birth rates: something that has not helped their species recover from overhunting.