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Sand Tiger Sharks By The Numbers

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How to Spot A Sand Tiger Shark

The sand tiger shark's jagged teeth and long mouth may look intimidating, but it's actually one of the more gentle sharks. Tap or click on hotspots for more information.

Explore the Sand Tiger Shark

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Did You Know?

Sand Tiger Sharks Are Social Animals

Sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus) -- also known as the grey nurse shark and ground shark -- can be found in most warm seas throughout the world. But they’re not out there alone. In 2016, researchers discovered that this species, far from being lonely hunters, exhibit social behavior typically seen in mammals.

In the summer, sand tigers inhabiting the waters off the coast of the eastern United States migrate to Delaware Bay, where they are in close contact with one another. Uncertain whether the sharks continued to interact socially after returning to the open ocean, researchers attached acoustic tags to more than 300 of them, tracking their movements and recording interactions among the sharks for nearly a year.

The result? Scientists found that the sharks enjoyed an active social life year-round. Initial data from two individual sharks showed that -- in addition to coming across members of other species (including great whites) -- they encountered nearly 200 other sand tigers. But interestingly, the two sharks re-encountered certain sand tiger individuals -- perhaps friends? -- throughout the year, in some cases more than 20 times.

Researchers also discovered that the sharks formed groups that varied in size depending on location and time of year, with late winter and early spring being the less social periods. It’s thought that during these times the sharks are most likely searching for mates and food (rather solitary endeavors). This is behavior not unlike the mammals we consider intelligent, such as chimpanzees, elephants and dolphins.

Scientists hope that by defining critical locations where sand tigers congregate, conservation plans can be created to better protect this at-risk species.

But perhaps more importantly, discovering that sharks are capable of making decisions associated with social networking casts these former “loners” in a new light, says Danielle Haulsee, a PhD candidate in oceanography at the University of Delaware in Lewes. “Our research shows that it is important for the scientific community to not rule out these types of behaviors in nonmammalian species.”

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Sand Tiger Sharks Can Be Found In Warm, Coastal Waters

Sand tiger sharks can be found in coastal waters in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. Each year, sand tigers in South Africa and Australia migrate northwards to mate.

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