Are Sand Tiger Sharks Dangerous Or Aggressive?

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: September 5, 2022
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The sand tiger shark is a popular shark belonging to the Order Lamniformes and the Odontaspididae family. As one would expect, they are commonly found in oceans around the world, especially in shallow parts close to the shore. Sand tiger sharks, like most other sharks, boast a vicious appearance that may make one wonder whether or not they are dangerous and aggressive, especially towards humans. Let’s find out here. 

Can Sand Tiger Sharks Bite?

A giant sand tiger shark swims in a cave.

Sand tiger sharks have 44 to 48 upper teeth and 41 to 46 lower teeth.

©Stefan Pircher/

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Sand tiger sharks, like most other sharks, are naturally equipped to inflict deep bites. Mere looking at them, you see their dangerous-looking teeth which are visible and stick out conspicuously, even when their mouth is closed. They have a massive dentition comprising extended and narrow primary cusps and a division into upper, intermediate, and lower teeth. The upper teeth range from 44-48 while the lower teeth number about 41-46. They also have quite a number of teeth at the corner of their mouths. All of these together give them the naturally sinister appearance that they are well known for. 

From that dentition, it is pretty easy to tell just how dangerous the sand tiger’s bite is. However, they only prey on other fishes including smaller sharks, squids, and crustaceans. And, while the younger ones get preyed on by other adult shark species, adult sand tiger sharks have no actual predators.

Are Sand Tiger Sharks Aggressive?

Sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) swimming with other fish in an aquarium.

Sand tiger sharks are non-aggressive sharks.

©Valeri Potapova/

Most experts agree that sand tiger sharks are non-aggressive species. They are known to keep their distance from humans, and there have only been about 36 recorded attacks. None of these attacks was fatal, which means that they are really not out to kill or attack humans and they only do so when they feel threatened or sense something sinister.

Are Sand Tiger Sharks Dangerous To Humans?

Sand tiger shark or grey nurse shark or spotted ragged-tooth shark, Carcharias taurus, Cape Infanta, South Africa, Indian Ocean

Although there have been 36 attacks on humans with no fatality, sand tiger sharks are not very dangerous to humans.

©Alessandro De Maddalena/

We mentioned before that sand tiger sharks do not try to bite or display aggression towards humans unprovoked. However, scientists advise that they should be treated as “potentially dangerous” just because of their massive 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, with none of these attacks resulting in loss of life. This means that, for one, no human being has ever died as a result of being bitten by sand tiger sharks. Now, 36 attacks is a lot and it’s quite unfortunate for the humans that make up this number. However, we must mention that 36 is just a tiny fraction of the thousands of humans that have been in contact with sand tiger sharks. That pretty much shows that they rarely set out to attack humans and in the rare event that they do, it will likely be non-fatal. To further put that in perspective, you are more likely to get struck by thunder than get bitten by a sand tiger shark, even if you are a diver or fisherman. 

We must also mention that sand tigers are considered favorites among humans, which is why they are often on display in most state-of-the-art aquaria. Humans love the sight of them and while we can’t tell for sure what they think of us, we can be sure of one thing- the majority of sand shark individuals mean us (humans) no harm. 

However, we must reiterate strongly that sand tiger sharks are “potentially dangerous” and they must be treated as such. We absolutely do not advise getting close to them or swimming roughly and violently around them. Also, sand tiger sharks have, on a few occasions, bitten spearfishers, so it’s important to spearfish with serious caution. Matter of fact, there are reports of sand tiger sharks pilfering fishes from spears underwater. 

On the whole, sand tiger sharks are benign, slow-moving fishes, content with their diet of bony fishes and squids and they are not very dangerous to humans. 

Are Sand Tiger Sharks More Dangerous Than Tiger Sharks?

Most people, especially non-experts, often mix up tiger sharks and sand tiger sharks, thinking they are one and the same. And, of course, no one can blame them, given the similarity in their names. However, the truth is sand tiger sharks and tiger sharks are not the same, and not only are they not the same, but they also do not belong to the same genus. The sand tiger shark belongs to the genus Carcharias while the tiger shark belongs to the genus Galeocerdo. 

In terms of danger, tiger sharks are way more dangerous than sand tiger sharks. Tiger sharks have razor-sharp and serrated teeth; their diet is wide enough to include larger fishes like dolphins, sea turtles, and seals. They are one of the most aggressive shark species and their reputation can be summarized with these figures: 138 reported attacks with 36 of them being fatal. That’s a lot more than what’s obtainable for the sand tiger shark: 36 total human attacks with zero fatality. 

So, to answer the question, sand tiger sharks are not even close to being as dangerous as tiger sharks. 

How to Avoid Sand Tiger Shark Bites

Like we mentioned over and over again, sand tiger sharks are not inherently dangerous even if their appearance tells a different story. However, they are still potentially dangerous and as such, humans should respectably exercise caution around them. Below are tips on how to avoid sand tiger shark bites:

  • Avoid activities in water during lowlight hours (dawn/dusk) or at night when sharks, including sand tiger sharks are most active. 
  • Always have someone around because sand tiger sharks are more likely to attack solitary individuals. 
  • As tempting as it is, try not to splash water excessively as that could leave the sand sharks feeling threatened. 
  • For those who spearfish, exercise some caution and be on the lookout as sand sharks are known to steal fish from spears. Catching them with spears must also be done conscientiously as they may attempt to bite. 
  • The most obvious tip of all is avoiding oceans with sharks as much as possible. You can have experts evaluate that side of the water before diving in. 

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © MP cz/

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