American Oceans

Tiger Shark vs Sand Tiger Shark

Tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks are two of the most well-known shark species in the world.

a sand tiger shark swimming underwater

While both species are often referred to as “tiger sharks,” they are actually two distinct species with different characteristics and behaviors.

Understanding the differences between these two species is important for anyone interested in shark conservation or simply curious about the ocean’s top predators.

Check out this guide below to learn what similarities these two sharks share, as well as what sets them apart!

Tiger Shark vs Sand Tiger Shark: An Overview

apex predator tiger shark galeocerdo cuvier threatened

Tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks are two distinct species of sharks that belong to different families.

While tiger sharks belong to the Carcharhinidae family, sand tiger sharks belong to the Odontaspididae family. Both species are known for their unique characteristics and behaviors.

Tiger sharks, also known as Galeocerdo cuvier, are known for their large size and aggressive behavior. They are found in warm waters around the world, including the Western Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Tiger sharks are known to have a varied diet, which includes fish, turtles, birds, and even other sharks. They are also known for their ability to eat non-food items, such as tires, license plates, and even clothing.

Sand tiger sharks, also known as Carcharias taurus, are known for their distinctive appearance, which includes a pointed snout and a mouthful of sharp teeth.

They are found in temperate and tropical waters around the world, including the Western Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean. Sand tiger sharks are known to have a diet that includes small fish, crustaceans, and squid.

One of the key differences between tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks is their behavior. While tiger sharks are known for their aggression and willingness to attack humans, sand tiger sharks are generally considered to be more docile. Sand tiger sharks are also known for their unique reproductive habits, which involve intrauterine cannibalism.

This means that the largest and strongest embryos will eat their siblings while still in the womb, ensuring that only the strongest offspring survive.

In terms of size, tiger sharks are generally larger than sand tiger sharks. Tiger sharks can grow up to 18 feet in length, while sand tiger sharks typically reach a maximum length of around 10 feet.

However, sand tiger sharks are known for their impressive teeth, which are long and pointed and give them a fearsome appearance.

Physical Characteristics

a sand tiger shark swimming showing its fearsome teeth

Tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks are both large sharks, but the tiger shark is generally larger.

Adult tiger sharks can grow up to 18 feet long and weigh over 2,000 pounds, while adult sand tiger sharks usually reach around 10 feet in length and weigh up to 350 pounds.

Appearance

Tiger sharks have a distinctive appearance with a dark gray or brown body and vertical stripes or spots on their sides.

Sand tiger sharks, on the other hand, have a light brown or gray body with dark spots or patches on their skin. Both species have a pointed snout and small eyes.

Teeth

Tiger sharks have sharp, serrated teeth that are designed for cutting through tough prey, such as sea turtles and even other sharks.

Sand tiger sharks have long, needle-like teeth that protrude from their jaws, giving them a menacing appearance.

Fins

Both tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks have a dorsal fin on their backs, which helps them to stabilize and maneuver in the water. The dorsal fin of a tiger shark is larger and more pointed than that of a sand tiger shark.

Both species also have pectoral fins on their sides, which they use to swim and steer, as well as pelvic fins on their undersides. The caudal fin, or tail, of a tiger shark is large and crescent-shaped, while the caudal fin of a sand tiger shark is more symmetrical.

In terms of physical characteristics, there are some notable differences between tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks.

While both are formidable predators, the tiger shark is generally larger and more aggressive, with sharp, serrated teeth designed for cutting through tough prey. Sand tiger sharks, on the other hand, have a more slender appearance with long, needle-like teeth that protrude from their jaws.

Both species have a dorsal fin on their backs, as well as pectoral, pelvic, and caudal fins for swimming and maneuvering in the water.

Habitat and Distribution

Tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks have different habitat preferences. Tiger sharks are found in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, while sand tiger sharks are primarily found in temperate and tropical waters.

Sand tiger sharks inhabit shallow bays, rocky and sandy bottoms, and coral reefs. They are known to inhabit the continental shelf and are often found in captivity.

Tiger sharks prefer warm, shallow waters and are often found near the coastlines of Australia, North America, Mexico, and the Gulf of Mexico.

They are also found in Africa and other tropical waters. Tiger sharks have a broad range of habitats, including coral reefs, lagoons, and open ocean.

Location

Sand tiger sharks are found in the subtropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

They are commonly found off the coast of South Africa, Australia, and North America. Sand tiger sharks are known to inhabit shallow bays, rocky and sandy bottoms, and coral reefs.

Tiger sharks are found in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, including the coasts of Australia, North America, Mexico, and the Gulf of Mexico.

They are also found in Africa and other tropical waters. Tiger sharks are known to inhabit coral reefs, lagoons, and open ocean.

Diet and Hunting

Both tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks are carnivorous and feed on a variety of prey, including fish, squid, rays, sea turtles, crustaceans such as lobsters and crabs, and occasionally birds and snakes.

Tiger sharks have a reputation for being voracious predators with a broad diet, and they have been known to consume a wide range of prey items, from small fish to sea turtles and even other sharks.

Sand tiger sharks, on the other hand, tend to have a more specialized diet and primarily feed on small to medium-sized fish.

They have been observed hunting in schools, using their sharp teeth to capture their prey.

Hunting Methods

Tiger sharks are known to be opportunistic hunters and will use a variety of hunting methods to catch their prey.

They are known to hunt both actively and passively, using their keen sense of smell to detect prey from a distance. They are also known to use stealth and ambush tactics to catch their prey, often attacking from below.

Sand tiger sharks, on the other hand, are more active hunters and have been observed using a variety of hunting strategies to catch their prey. They are known to hunt in schools, using their sharp teeth to capture their prey.

They have also been observed using a “lie and wait” strategy, where they will remain motionless on the ocean floor and wait for their prey to swim by before striking.

Behavior and Reproduction

Tiger Shark predator or Galeocerdo cuvier

Both tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks are known for their unique and fascinating behaviors. Tiger sharks are known to be solitary hunters and can often be found patrolling the waters alone.

They have been observed swimming in a zigzag pattern to catch their prey and are known to feed on a variety of marine animals, including sea turtles, fish, and even birds.

Sand tiger sharks, on the other hand, are known to form schools and can often be found swimming in groups.

They are also known for their distinctive behavior of hanging motionless in the water, which is thought to help them conserve energy. Sand tiger sharks are generally not aggressive towards humans, but they have been known to attack if provoked.

Reproduction

Tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks have different reproductive behaviors. Tiger sharks are known for their long gestation period, which can last up to 16 months.

Female tiger sharks give birth to litters of up to 80 pups, but only a few of these pups will survive to adulthood.

Sand tiger sharks, on the other hand, have a unique reproductive strategy known as intrauterine cannibalism.

This means that the strongest embryo in each uterus will consume its siblings, resulting in only two pups being born per litter. Sand tiger sharks also have a relatively short gestation period of around 9-12 months.

Both tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks are able to maintain neutral buoyancy in the water thanks to their large livers, which contain a lot of oil. This allows them to hover in the water without expending too much energy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do sand tiger sharks live?

Sand tiger sharks can live up to 25 years in the wild.

What does a sand tiger shark eat?

Sand tiger sharks primarily feed on small fish, but they also eat crustaceans and squid.

Where does the sand tiger shark live?

Sand tiger sharks are found in warm and temperate waters around the world, including the western Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the western Indian Ocean.

Sand tiger shark weight?

Adult sand tiger sharks typically weigh between 200 and 350 pounds.

Sand tiger shark size?

Adult sand tiger sharks can grow up to 10 feet in length.

Are sand tiger sharks more aggressive than tiger sharks?

Sand tiger sharks are generally not aggressive towards humans unless provoked, whereas tiger sharks are known to be more aggressive and have been responsible for a number of attacks on humans.

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