The Friendly Sand Tiger Shark

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  • Author: Kate Prenko
  • Press: Shark Magazine
  • Date: Thursday, 22 March 2018

Visitors of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina beaches received quite the surprise early morning of March 18th. They witnessed a dead 7-foot-long sand tiger shark  laying on the beach according to Mike Wagner, operations manager for Hilton Head Island Shore Beach Services. As sand tiger sharks are typically found in warm, coastal waters, it is no surprise that one would wash up off the coast of South Carolina.

When South Carolina Natural Resources Department employees arrived on scene, they were unsure of the cause of death. According to David Lucas, a spokesperson for the department, the shark carcass was loaded onto the department’s trailer and was then transported to a remote Department of Natural Resources disposal site.

Sand tiger sharks, also known as the gray nurse sharks, are a brownish-grey with rust colored spots on the top and a white belly. One look at the sharp, pointed teeth protruding from the cone-shaped snout of a sand tiger shark would suggest that they are ferocious creatures ready to attack any human. That is not the case at all, one would be surprised to learn they only attack humans if they are provoked. They stay away and keep to themselves.

A unique feature of sand tiger sharks is that they are the only known shark that comes up to gulp air. Once they have gulped a plethora of air, they store it in their bellies and are then able to swim motionless seeking their prey. Their hunting typically occurs in groups and they feed at night on small fish.This group hunting is something scientists have discovered to be a social behavior similar to that of mammals.

Due to their lack of aggression toward humans (despite their sharp and scary looking teeth), sand tiger sharks are a favorite in aquariums. Although we cannot blame aquariums for their classification of “vulnerable”. Several factors contribute to their slow decline. One of those being their limited rate of reproduction. Female sharks are unable to reproduce until they are about 10 years old. However once they have become pregnant, about five months in, sand tiger shark hatchlings start consuming their smaller and weaker siblings by consuming them along with unfertilized eggs, until there is only one left.

They are quite the fascinating shark! Displaying a ferocious look, but naturally being quite friendly to humans, they are full of contradiction. Mostly they are just moving about the waters with their social circles and finding food. Nothing to be afraid of.

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