At the Aquarium
Our Open Sea exhibit is vast, spanning more than 90 feet and holding over a million gallons of water. But it still puts large sharks in close proximity to other fish that might just look like lunch. That’s one reason we host beautiful sandbar sharks—they play well with others.
“We want to ensure that our sharks fit in with other animals,” says Manny Ezcurra, associate curator of elasmobranches. “These are classic large sharks, but they aren’t as aggressive as some other species.”
The Aquarium’s sandbar sharks come from Hawaii and make a surprising journey to the Aquarium—via airplane. Working with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, aquarists place the sharks in large, sealed, oxygenated containers. From there, the animals take a direct flight from Honolulu to San Francisco, where our staff transports them by truck to the Aquarium. They arrive healthy and rested!
The sandbar shark is one of the largest coastal pelagic sharks, and can be eight feet long. True to its name, it’s often found in sandy or muddy areas close to land.
Also known as the brown or thickskin shark, the sandbar shark is easily recognized by its large dorsal (top) fin.
Sandbar sharks occasionally venture out to oceanic waters. In some areas, they migrate seasonally in response to changing water temperatures and localized upwelling events, which help provide food. They dine on bony fishes and smaller sharks and rays, as well as invertebrates like cephalopods, shrimp and snails.
As with most shark species, shark finning and overfishing have devastated the sandbar shark population in recent decades. This species is long-lived and produces few young, making them particularly prone to overfishing. Sandbar sharks are ranked as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Without more regulations, many shark species will become extinct.
Unlike some sharks, the sandbar shark bears live young. The embryos receive nourishment from a placentalike attachment to the mother’s uterine wall.
Females have young every two or three years, and gestation is about 12 months.