The Sand Tiger Shark is a popular species of shark that belongs to the order Goniformes and the family Odontodontidae. As one might expect, they are ubiquitous in oceans around the world, especially in shallow waters close to shore. Like most other sharks, sand tiger sharks have a menacing appearance that may lead one to wonder if they are dangerous and aggressive, especially towards humans. Let’s find out here.
Can Sand Tiger Sharks Bite?
Like most other sharks, sand tiger sharks are born with the ability to deliver a deep bite. Just by looking at them, you can see their menacing looking teeth, which are clearly visible and stick out prominently even when their mouths are closed. They have a large dentition, including extended and narrow main cusps, and are divided into upper, middle, and lower teeth. Upper teeth range from 44-48, while lower teeth number around 41-46. They also have a fair amount of teeth at the corners of their mouths. All of this together gives them the inherently sinister look they’re known for.
From that dentition, it’s easy to see how dangerous a Sand Tiger’s bite can be. However, they only prey on other fish, including smaller sharks, squid and crustaceans. And, while juvenile sharks are preyed upon by other adults, adult sand tiger sharks have no real predators.
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Are Sand Tiger Sharks Aggressive?
Most experts agree that sand tiger sharks are a non-aggressive species. They are known to keep their distance from humans, with only about 36 recorded attacks. None of these attacks are lethal, meaning they really aren’t trying to kill or attack humans, they’ll only do it when they feel threatened or sense something sinister.
Are Sand Tiger Sharks Dangerous to Humans?
We mentioned earlier that sand tiger sharks do not bite or show aggression towards humans for no reason. However, scientists have suggested that they should be considered “potentially dangerous” simply because of their large dentition and overall size.
Now, let’s talk numbers, shall we? The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) has no more than 36 records of unprovoked sand tiger shark attacks on humans, none of which resulted in fatalities. This means, for one thing, that no one has died from being bitten by a sand tiger shark. Now, 36 attacks is a lot, very unfortunate for the humans who make up that number. However, we must point out that 36 is only a fraction of the thousands of people who have come into contact with sand tiger sharks. That pretty much suggests they rarely start attacking humans, and in the rare instances they do, it’s probably non-lethal. Rather, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than bitten by a sand tiger shark, even if you’re a diver or fisherman.
We must also mention that sand tigers are considered a favorite of humans, which is why they are often found in most state-of-the-art aquariums. Humans love seeing them, and while we can’t be sure what they think of us, we can be sure of one thing – most individual sand sharks are harmless to us (humans).
However, we must strongly reiterate that sand tiger sharks are “potentially dangerous” and must be dealt with. We definitely don’t recommend getting close to them or swimming roughly around them. Also, sand tiger sharks have bitten spearfishers on several occasions, so extreme care must be taken when spearfishing. In fact, there have been reports of sand tiger sharks stealing fish from pikes underwater.
Overall, the sand tiger shark is a gentle, slow-moving fish that feeds on bony fish and squid and is not very dangerous to humans.
Are sand tiger sharks more dangerous than tiger sharks?
Most people, especially non-experts, often confuse tiger sharks with sand tiger sharks and think they are the same thing. Of course, given the similarity of their names, no one can blame them. However, sand tiger sharks and tiger sharks are not actually the same, not only different, but also not in the same genus. Sand tiger sharks belong to the genus Carcharias while tiger sharks belong to the genus Galeocerdo.
In terms of danger, tiger sharks are far more dangerous than sand tiger sharks. Tiger sharks have sharp, serrated teeth. Their diet can range widely and can include larger fish such as dolphins, turtles, and seals. They are one of the most aggressive shark species, and their reputation can be summed up in these numbers: 138 reported attacks, 36 of which were fatal. That’s far more than sand tiger sharks can get: a total of 36 human attacks and zero fatalities.
So to answer the question, sand tiger sharks are not even as dangerous as tiger sharks.
How to Avoid a Sand Tiger Shark Bite
As we’ve mentioned repeatedly, sand tiger sharks are not inherently dangerous, even if their appearance tells a different story. However, they are still potentially dangerous, so humans should exercise caution around them. Here are tips on how to avoid sand tiger shark bites:
- Avoid being in the water during low light hours (dawn/dusk) or at night when sharks (including sand tiger sharks) are most active.
- Always have someone around, as sand tiger sharks are more likely to attack solitary individuals.
- As tempting as it is, try not to oversplash, as this may make the sand shark feel threatened.
- For those fishing with spears, please proceed with caution and watch out, as sand sharks have been known to steal fish from spears. Catching them with a spear must also be done carefully, as they may try to bite.
- The most obvious advice is to avoid oceans with sharks as much as possible. You can have an expert assess that side of the water before diving in.
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