The Minnesota Zoo’s six sand tiger sharks are all on display inside Discovery Bay. Did you know that they are great ambush hunters?

Because sand tiger sharks hover with little movement, they are effective predators. They can also form small groups or “shivers” while pursuing their prey, including schools of fish, small sharks, lobster, squid and crabs.

Sand tiger sharks inhabit warm, shallow, coastal waters around several countries, including the Atlantic coast. These sharks spend the majority of their time near sandy bottoms and rocky reefs. Swimming with their mouths agape, sand tigers can sport up to 94 teeth, giving them the nickname of “ragged-tooth” sharks. Although they may look intimidating, they are generally not aggressive and very rarely attack unless they have been intentionally provoked.

Although sand tiger sharks are found in many places, they are considered vulnerable to extinction. Certain subpopulations near Australia are critically endangered. This shark is occasionally hunted as food, caught for sport, and caught unintentionally as bycatch. Females give birth to only one or two pups at a time every two years, which makes their population slow to recover.

Did you know?

  • Instead of having a single uterus, female sharks have two (plural: uteri).  As sand tiger shark pups develop in their mother’s uteri, the largest ones eat their own siblings.
  • A female may have up to 23 fertilized eggs at the start, but only one or two pups survive.
  • The sand tiger shark pups hatch from their eggs within the mother’s body. They are already close to three feet in length when they are born.
  • Sand tiger sharks are able to stay nearly motionless in the water by gulping air.
  • Although sharks are classified as fish, they don’t have bones. Their skeletons are made of cartilage.
  • Sharkskin is rough and similar to sandpaper in texture, because their skin is made up of scale-like teeth called “dermal denticles.”

We hope you’ll visit each of the Minnesota Zoo’s sharks during Shark Week!