Quick Facts

Species Type



Adults reach 7 feet in length; juveniles found in the Bay grow 2 to 3 feet in length


Coastal waters; often found in harbors, bays and the mouths of rivers, preferring protected waters and smooth, sandy bottoms


Large schools of juvenile sandbar sharks visit the Chesapeake Bay in summer and autumn. As water temperatures cool, sharks move into warmer, southern waters. Most common in the Virginia portion of the Bay, although some travel northward into Maryland waters. 


Adults feed on bottom-dwelling fish and invertebrates; juveniles in Bay often feed on blue crabs


Males: 15 years; females: 21 years

Conservation Status



The sandbar shark has a brownish or dark gray body with a whitish belly. It has a rounded snout and triangular, saw-like teeth. It has a tall, triangular dorsal fin that increases its swimming stability, and a thick, narrow ridge of skin runs along its back between its two dorsal fins. Adults reach seven feet in length, but the juveniles that are found in the Chesapeake Bay are two to three feet long.


Sandbar sharks feed on bottom-dwelling fish and invertebrates. In the Chesapeake Bay, juveniles often feed on blue crabs.


Adults have few predators. Juveniles may be preyed upon by bull sharks and other large sharks.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Females give birth every other year; they are pregnant for eight to 12 months before giving birth between June and August to eight to 10 live young. Juveniles remain in shallow waters until late autumn, when they form schools and move to warmer, southern waters. Males can live up to 15 years, while females can live as long as 21 years.

Did You Know?

  • The sandbar shark is the most common shark found in the Chesapeake Bay and along the mid-Atlantic coast. In fact, the Chesapeake Bay is one of the most important sandbar shark nursery areas on the East Coast.
  • Sandbar sharks are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Like other sharks, the sandbar shark's skeleton is made entirely of cartilage.
  • Sandbar sharks have been rarely associated with attacks on humans. However, you should always use caution to protect yourself from sharks and other underwater creatures when swimming or wading.

Sources and Additional Information