Explore by Animal
The sandbar shark suffers from an unfortunate case of mixed identities. It has had at least 10 scientific names since the early 1800s, and nearly half as many common names. (Its current scientific name, Carcharhinus plumbeus, translates to “sharpened nose of iron.”) It even closely resembles another species, adding to the confusion.
The sandbar can reach 7½ feet in length, although 6 feet is more typical. A full-bodied fish, males average 110 pounds while females weigh about 150 pounds. The sandbar’s most distinguishing feature is its towering dorsal fin, which can grow to 18 percent of the shark’s total body length. This places the sandbar among the sharkiest of sharks, its ominous protrusion drawing fearful gasps from those who see it. But like most species, the sandbar prefers smaller prey to humans and poses little threat, other than a spike in our heart rate! Find its fin amid the fray next time you visit Wild Reef.
Here’s a riddle: Which came first—the shark, the egg, or both? All three are correct, as some sharks give birth to live pups, some lay eggs, and some form eggs inside the womb that hatch internally and are born as pups. Sandbar sharks are viviparous, which means the embryo is attached to the uterus and receives nourishment and oxygen via placenta.
Sandbar sharks have few predators besides humans. Commercial fishers catch them for their leathery hides, meat and vitamin-rich livers, and some Asian communities add their fins to soup. Because sandbar sharks mature slowly and have few offspring, they are vulnerable to overfishing.