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February Elasmobranch of the Month: Sandbar Shark

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

Author: Linda Weiss

Sandbar Shark

(Carcharhinus plumbeus)

Key Features/Appearance

The color of the Sandbar shark’s back is generally a variation of brown, gray or bronze while its belly is white. It’s first dorsal fin is tall and triangular shaped and begins at or just before the pectoral fins. Its pectoral fins are long and broad. The shark’s snout is also broad, rounded and relatively short. An interdorsal ridge is present. The teeth in both the upper and lower jaws are triangular and serrated. Fully grown, Sandbar sharks can reach a length of 250 cm (8 ft), with females growing larger than males.

Image: Andy Murch ( Big Fish Expeditions)

Habitat and Distribution

Sandbar sharks are found worldwide, in coastal and offshore, temperate waters, as well as bays and harbors. With these various locations they can be located in depths ranging from 2 – 247 m (5 - 800 ft). Their distribution includes the Atlantic Ocean’s Eastern coast of the United States from Florida to Massachusetts, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. They also inhabit the Western Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Sandbar shark distribution Credit: Florida Museum


Younger, smaller Sandbar sharks feed on shrimp, snails and crabs. Larger sharks feed on octopi, squid, fish, rays and other smaller sharks. They generally feed nearer to the ocean floor and will both hunt and scavenge.


Sandbar sharks are viviparous, with the embryo is nourished from a yolk sac inside the mother. After a 12-month gestation period the pups are born alive. Litters range in size from only a single offspring to as many as 14.

Image: Andy Murch ( Big Fish Expeditions)


The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently lists the Sandbar shark as Vulnerable, with a decreasing population trend.


Sandbar sharks are targeted by both commercial and recreational fisheries. They are harvested for their meat as well as their fins to be used in shark fin soup. They are also captured for display in zoos and aquariums. Larger sharks such as the Great White and Tiger will prey upon Sandbar sharks.


Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Florida Museum of Natural History

NOAA Fisheries Service


The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Musick, J.A., Stevens, J.D., Baum, J.K., Bradai, M., Clò, S., Fergusson, I., Grubbs, R.D., Soldo, A., Vacchi, M. & Vooren, C.M. 2009. Carcharhinus plumbeus . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T3853A10130397. Downloaded on 05 February 2020.

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