Sandtiger Shark, Odontaspis ferox (Risso 1810)

Other Names: Bumpytail Ragged-tooth, Herbsts Nurse Shark, Herbst's Nurse Shark, Sand Tiger Shark, Smalltooth Sand Tiger, Smalltooth Sandtiger

A Sandtiger Shark, Odontaspis ferox, at Punta de Lines, El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain, Ranger Expedition to the Atlantic Seamounts, October 2014. Source: Oceana Europe / Flickr. License: All rights reserved


A large robust grey to greyish-brown shark becoming paler below, with darker spots or blotches on the side, and no white tip to first dorsal fin. The first dorsal fin is noticeably larger than second dorsal fin and the anal fin, and is closer to the pectoral-fin bases than to the pelvic-fin bases.

A rare Sandtiger Shark filmed in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand - depth 880 m.

More images at ARKive

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Odontaspis ferox in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 May 2024,

Sandtiger Shark, Odontaspis ferox (Risso 1810)

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Found worldwide in tropical and warm temperate oceans; on or near the bottom. Known in Australian waters from off New South Wales, Victoria and northwestern Australia in depths to 880 m.

The Sandtiger Shark has a patchy distribution throughout its range and is rare in Australian waters. This docile slow-swimming shark lives near the bottom, often around oceanic islands and on submarine seamounts and ridges. It may undertake vertical migrations towards the surface.


Meristic features:

  • Vertebrae 177-183 (precaudal 95-98)
  • Teeth in upper jaw 48-51
  • Teeth in lower jaw 40-42
  • Snout long and conical, preoral length 4.4-7.8% TL; jaws with long awl-like teeth, with 2-3 cusplets on either side of main cusp; first dorsal fin noticeably larger than second dorsal fin and anal fin, closer to pectoral-fin bases than to pelvic-fin bases; caudal fin asymmetrical.


    To 4.1 m TL.


    Grey or greyish-brown above, paler below, often with darker spots or blotches on the sides; no white tip to first dorsal fin.


    Feeds close to the bottom, mostly on fishes, squid and crustaceans.


    Little is known of the biology of the Sandtiger Shark. Reproduction is presumably similar to that of the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) - ovoviviparous (aplacental viviparity), meaning that the young are born alive after developing from eggs in the uterus that are not nourished via a placenta. After the developing embryos have absorbed their yolk sac, they feed on other eggs produced by the mother (embryonic oophagy), then on the other embryos (intra-uterine cannibalism or adelphophagy) in the uterus.

    Size at birth 105 cm.  Males reach maturity at about 2.75 m, females at 3.6 m


    Occasionally taken as commercial bycatch in Australia.


    IUCN Red List: Vulnerable (Australian Subpopulation)

    Species Citation

    Squalus ferox Risso, 1810, Ichthyologie de Nice, ou histoire naturelle des poissons du d├ępartement des Alpes Maritimes: 38. Type locality: off Nice, France, Mediterranean Sea.


    Bray, D.J. 2020


    Atlas of Living Australia

    Sandtiger Shark, Odontaspis ferox (Risso 1810)


    Bigelow, H.B. & Schroeder, W.C. 1953. Sawfishes, guitarfishes, skates and rays. pp. 1-514, figs 1-117 in Parr, A.E. (ed.). Fishes of the western North Atlantic. Memoir. Sears Foundation of Marine Research 1(2): 1-599

    Bonfil, R. 1995. Is the ragged toothed shark cosmopolitan? First record from the western North Atlantic. Journal of Fish Biology 47: 341-344

    Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125. Rome : FAO Vol. 4(1) pp. 1-249.

    Compagno, L.J.V. 2001. Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes). Rome : FAO, FAO Species Catalogue for Fisheries Purposes No. 1 Vol. 2 269 pp.

    Compagno, L.J.V. & Niem, V.H. 1998. Family Odontaspididae. pp. 1264-1267 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 2 687-1396 pp.

    Compagno, L.J.V., Dando, M. & Fowler, S. 2005. A Field Guide to the Sharks of the World. London : Collins 368 pp.

    Fergusson, I.K., Graham, K.J. and Compagno, L.J.V. 2008. Distribution, abundance and biology of the smalltooth sandtiger shark Odontaspis ferox. Environmental Biology of Fishes 81(2): 207-228.

    Graham, K.J., Pollard, D.A., Gordon, I., Williams, S., Flaherty, A.A., Fergusson, I. & Dicken, M. 2016. Odontaspis ferox. (errata version published in 2016) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41876A103433002. Downloaded on 24 February 2017.

    Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls.

    Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Collingwood : CSIRO Publishing Australia 2, 550 pp.

    Macbeth, W.G., Vandenberg, M. & Graham, K.J. 2008. Identifying Sharks and Rays; a Guide for Commercial Fishers. Sydney : New South Wales Department of Primary Industry 71 pp.

    Risso, A. 1810. Ichthyologie de Nice, ou histoire naturelle des poissons du d├ępartement des Alpes Maritimes. Paris : F. Schaell 388 pp. 11 pls.

    Stone, N.R. & Shimada, K. 2019. Skeletal Anatomy of the Bigeye Sand Tiger Shark, Odontaspis noronhai (Lamniformes: Odontaspididae), and its implications for lamniform phylogeny, taxonomy, and conservation biology. Copeia 107(4): 632-652

    White, W. 2008. Shark Families Heterodontidae to Pristiophoridae. pp. 32-100 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

    Whitley, G.P. 1950. Studies in Ichthyology No. 14. Records of the Australian Museum 22(3): 234-245 figs 1-5 pl. 17 (as Odontaspis herbsti)

    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37008003

    Conservation:IUCN Vulnerable

    Depth:13-1025 m


    Max Size:450 cm TL

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