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Smalltooth sandtiger (Odontaspis ferox)

Smalltooth sandtiger - Odontaspis ferox

© Ian K Fergusson

(Risso, 1810).
Fr Requin feroce
Sp Solrayo; Salroig (Catalunya); Salraig (Llevant)
It Cagnaccio; Smidiru (Messina); Piscicani (Palermo); Cagnassun de fundo (Liguria)
Ma Silfjun; Kelb salvagg
Other Scientific Names Recently Used:  Carcharias ferox  of authors


A large, stocky shark with anal fin and second dorsal fin conspicuously smaller than the first dorsal fin; 1st dorsal mid-placed on back and closer to pectoral fins than pelvic fins; pectoral fins short, broad and paddle-like. Origin of second dorsal over posterior ends of pelvic fin bases, Snout dorsally depressed, conical and rather long; eyes fairly large, mainly black in colour, non-feline in appearance and without nictitating eyelids. Mouth extending posterior to eyes; protruding, fang-like unserrated teeth with two or more pairs of very prominent lateral cusps; 3 to 5 rows of smaller intermediate teeth between the anterior ad lateral teeth of the upper-jaw. Caudal fin strongly asymmetric, without lateral keels but upper precaudal pit present. Dorsal colour mid-grey or grey-brown, sometimes with ochre spots on the dorsum and flanks; ventral surfaces paler grey or white with dusky blotching on ventral surfaces of pectoral and pelvic fins; some fin apices dusky in juveniles but indistinct.


To at least 360cm but generally to 300cm; size at birth over 105cm TL.

Status and Distribution

N.E. Atlantic: Infrequent or rare, but probably wider-ranging in warm-temperate and tropical deep water than current records suggest. Occurrences mostly confined to coastal zones adjacent to Mediterranean interface, between 30N and 37N, and include southern Spain and Portugal; Madeira and Morrocco; nominal from Gulf of Gascony (northern Spain), suggesting the potential for occasional captures anywhere along the Portuguese coast. A recent (1995) record from Natal, N.E. Brazil, represents a substantial global range extension and supports the inference that these sharks are actually wide-ranging in warmer parts of the North Atlantic.
Mediterranean Sea Infrequent but more commonly encountered here than within the N.E. Atlantic. Mainly Western and Central Mediterranean, deeper waters (coastal) from Gibraltar to Sicily; Alboran and Catalon Seas off Valencia region and Balearics; also Cote d'Azur and Ligurian Seas (not frequent); Sardinia; Tyrrhennian Sea, particularly at islands (e.g., Ponza, Lipari); Algeria and Tunisia, Sicilian Channel (Linosa, Lampedusa and Malta); Straits of Messina and Ionian Sea along Italian coastline; also Adriatic (now mostly restricted to the eastern side, from Split southwards); Greek mainland coasts, Crete, Aegean Sea and Turkey (at offshore islands); probably rare or absent to the southeast of Rhodes but scant data.


A poorly-known shark of generally deepwater on continental and insular shelves down to at least 420m, but also infrequently in shallower littoral waters (less so in the Atlantic), particularly at remote, rocky islands adjacent to deepwater; found mainly near to the bottom based on Mediterranean captures. Zava and Montagna (1992) describe a recent (1991) specimen (female, 230cmTL) taken at Linosa, Isole Pelagie (Sicilian Chanel) at a depth between 10 and 40m. This shark is also sporadically caught by setlines south-west of Malta, at depths of 40 to 200m over rocky bottoms and mainly at night. Regional feeding ecology is poorly-known, but available data on stomach-contents demonstrates a primarily piscivorous diet of small bony fishes, also squid and crustaceans (shrimp). Compagno (1984) suggests that the less robust and weakly-differentiated tooth structure of this shark implies a diet of smaller and less active prey than that of the sandtiger Carcharias taurus.  Assumedly ovoviviparous, but no reproductive data. Females mature at 360cm and males at 275cm. Note  Recent vists by Ian K. Fergusson to fisheries based in Malta and Sicily demonstrate a wide-ranging confusion in colloquial names of those sharks including the word "tiger" in their English names. This is manifested in the belief that Odontaspis ferox  is synonymous with the pan-tropical carcharhinid tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, not recorded to-date from Mediterranean waters. English-speaking commercial fishermen will typically refer to catching "tiger" sharks, when actually referring to O. ferox . Moreover - to add further to this problem - the shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus,  is also called the "tiger" shark by many Maltese fishermen.  Referral to either photographs or preserved dentition is typically the only route to clarify these post-dated misidentifications, yet even single teeth from O. ferox  and I. oxyrinchus  are sometimes assumed as coming from the same shark. [an error occurred while processing this directive]