American Oceans

Sandbar Shark

The Sandbar Shark, also known as the Brown Shark or Thickskin Shark, is a species of requiem shark that is native to the Atlantic Ocean and the Indo-Pacific.

a sandbar shark swimming underwater

It is distinguishable by its very high first dorsal fin and interdorsal ridge.

Sandbar Sharks are one of the world’s largest coastal sharks and are the most common species swimming along the U.S. Atlantic coast.


Sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus), also known as brown sharks or thickskin sharks, are a species of requiem shark that can be found in both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indo-Pacific.

Sandbar Shark swim under the ocean

These sharks are distinguishable by their very high first dorsal fin and interdorsal ridge.

Sandbar sharks are named for the sandy flats, bays, and estuaries where they are commonly found. They are the most common species of shark in the Chesapeake Bay.

Physical Characteristics

Sandbar sharks have a stout, cylindrical body that is gray-brown or “bronzy” in color. They have a white belly and dusky posterior edges to their fins.

These sharks have a large first dorsal fin that is tall and triangular, while their second dorsal fin and anal fin are similar in size and much smaller.

Sandbar males are typically 5.9 feet long, while females are a bit longer at 6.6-8.2 feet. On average, these sharks weigh 100 to 200 pounds.

The largest sandbar specimen on record is 8 feet long and 260 pounds.

The snout of a sandbar shark is broad and blunt, and its eyes are large and circular. Sandbar sharks have five gill slits that are located on the sides of their head.

These sharks have a mid-dorsal ridge that runs from behind their first dorsal fin to their second dorsal fin. This ridge is a distinguishing characteristic of sandbar sharks.

Sandbar sharks are known for their relatively placid behavior, and they are not considered to be a significant threat to humans.

However, it is important to note that all sharks should be treated with respect and caution, as they are wild animals and can be unpredictable.


Sandbar sharks are a marine species that can be found in various types of waters, including bays, estuaries, and coastal waters.

They prefer temperate waters and can be found in tropical to temperate waters worldwide. In the western Atlantic, they range from Massachusetts to Brazil.

Geographic Range

Sandbar sharks are found in many parts of the world, including the western Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean.

They are most common in the western Atlantic, where they range from Massachusetts to Brazil.

They can also be found in the eastern Atlantic, from Mauritania to Senegal, and in the western Indian Ocean, from South Africa to Madagascar.

In the Pacific Ocean, they are found from Japan to Australia and from California to Chile.

Habitat Type

Sandbar sharks prefer to live in shallow waters near the mouth of rivers, bays, and estuaries.

They are also found in offshore waters, where they can be seen swimming near the surface.

Juvenile sandbar sharks are common in the lower Chesapeake Bay, and nursery grounds are found from Delaware Bay to South Carolina. They are known to inhabit areas with sandy or muddy bottoms and are often found near drop-offs or ledges.

Sandbar sharks are opportunistic feeders and prey mostly on small fishes like menhaden, croaker, and snapper, as well as crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp.

They are not known to be aggressive towards humans, but caution should always be taken when swimming in waters that are known to be inhabited by sharks.


Sandbar sharks are highly migratory and can be found in temperate and tropical waters worldwide.

As juveniles, they often live in “mixed-sex” schools in shallow, coastal nursery grounds. In the winter, they move to warmer, deeper waters.

Adult sandbar sharks do not school with young sharks and are separated by sex.

Feeding Habits

Sandbar sharks are opportunistic feeders and their diet varies depending on their location and availability of prey.

They primarily feed on crabs, rays, octopus, squid, small fish, mollusks, eels, skates, dogfish, and bony fish.

They are known to feed on crustaceans and other prey that are easily available.

Reproduction and Mating

Sandbar sharks are viviparous, which means they give birth to live young. Females have a gestation period of about 8 to 12 months and give birth to 1 to 14 pups at a time.

The pups are born in shallow waters and are about 2.5 to 3 feet long at birth.

Sandbar sharks reach sexual maturity at around 13 years of age for males and 15 years of age for females.

Predators and Prey

Sandbar sharks have very few predators besides humans. Their slow growth, late sexual maturity, and small number of offspring make this species very sensitive to overfishing and habitat degradation.

However, they are still preyed upon by larger sharks such as the bull shark, tiger shark, sand tiger shark, brown shark, and dusky shark.

In terms of prey, sandbar sharks are known to feed on a variety of marine animals such as crabs, rays, octopus, squid, small fish, mollusks, eels, skates, dogfish, and bony fish.

They are opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever prey is readily available.

Conservation Status

The Sandbar Shark is listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

a snadbar shark swimming underwater

The species is also listed as “Endangered” in some regions.


One of the biggest threats to Sandbar Sharks is overfishing. The species is heavily targeted by commercial and recreational fishermen for its meat, oil, skin, and fins.

Sandbar Sharks are also often caught as bycatch in other fisheries. Overfishing has led to a significant decline in Sandbar Shark populations in many regions.

Climate change is also a potential threat to the species. As ocean temperatures rise and ocean acidity levels change, it could impact the Sandbar Shark’s habitat and food sources.

Conservation Efforts

Efforts to conserve Sandbar Sharks include regulations on commercial and recreational fishing, including size limits, catch limits, and seasonal closures.

The species is also protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates the international trade of endangered species.

In addition, conservation organizations and researchers are working to better understand Sandbar Shark populations and their behavior, as well as to promote public awareness and education about the importance of protecting the species.

Despite these efforts, Sandbar Sharks continue to face significant threats, and their populations remain at risk.

Continued conservation efforts and research are needed to ensure the long-term survival of this important species.

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