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Shark Spotlight: Sandbar Sharks

Posted on Jul 23, 2018 by in Education, Species Highlights

It’s that time of year again—Fin Fest! Sharks are already on our minds 24/7, but this week-long celebration of sharks (July 22 – 29, 2018) gives us an excuse to really show how much we appreciate these jaw-some animals.

Also known as the “brown shark” due to their muddy-gray appearance, the sandbar shark is most commonly found in shallow coastal waters with a population distribution that touches every continent except Antarctica. Despite being prevalent on an international scale, some of the largest groups of sandbars can be found relatively close to Northeast Ohio. In fact, they’re the most common species of shark in the western Atlantic Ocean. Large nursery grounds in the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and in parts of the Carolina coast make them a very common shark species around popular beach vacation spots for Clevelanders. Their population in these areas takes a huge hit in the winter, however, as their migration patterns take them as far south as the Gulf of Mexico in search of warmer water.

At the Aquarium, sandbar sharks are a perennial favorite due to their more active, agile swimming habits. Their tendency to traverse a lot of vertical space in the exhibit and make sharp, sudden turns shows off their distinctive body shape and makes them exciting to watch. Their shape in particular is what aquarist Ray Popik describes as a “classic shark look.” Their uncommonly tall dorsal fins, short snouts and wide pectoral fins give them a sleek profile that draws a lot of attention. “Sandbars are very stereotypical and jet fighter-looking,” says Popik. “They’ve got that nice, tall dorsal fin which gives them the look you picture when you think about a shark.”

Showing off their athletic swimming ability and undeniably cool appearance, sandbar sharks don’t just bridge the gap between the nurse and sandtiger — they’re proof that even the most common shark species are something truly extraordinary.

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