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Creature Feature: Ragged Tooth Sharks

The Ragged Tooth Shark – Latin Name: Carcharius Taurus also known as Spotted Sand Tigers or Grey Nurse Sharks have eluded Scientists in their habits and therefor, compared to other Shark Species, very little is known about them. Like, Why do they come to Aliwal to mate? Why do they move to Sodwana to gestate? Where do they pup? Where do their pups go? Where do they go after “pupping”?

While we don’t have those specific answers we can give you a few other facts:

1. They’re the only Shark without a swim bladder. They come up to the surface to gulp air which they store in their stomach for buoyancy.

3. They can be seen between the months of May and November in Aliwal for mating. (No one knows why – Yet)

4. They are ovoviviporous and embryophagy occurs which allows them only 2 pups at a time.

5. Survival of the fittest – at a mere 17cm in the womb these little babas have functional teeth allowing them to eat their smaller siblings by the time they are 26cm long.

6. Their gestation period is between 8 and 9 months at which time the surviving pups are at a staggering 99cm.

7. Adult maturity is reached at around 320cm. Males generally grow to a meek 190cm compared to the average female size of 220cm at the age of 6 years old. The oldest recorded “Raggy” (as endearingly called by the locals) is 16 years old (in captivity).

8. While most sharks can’t survive whilst standing still the Raggy almost relies on it. This of course being to reserve the air they storing in their stomachs.

9. The Ragged Tooth Shark is nocturnal and therefor when we see them while diving here on Aliwal Shoal, they are super lazy and docile, making them very slow moving and non-aggressive. We follow a strict protocol when diving with our sharks using the guidelines of The Raggy Code Of Conduct in order to conserve them and keep them feeling at home and not disrupted.

10.  Distinguishing Characteristics defining them from other sharks are for sure that mouth full of teeth (often times with sea weed hanging out – making us joke about them being vegetarians), you’ll notice that the first dorsal fin is further back on their backs, closer to the pelvic fins that their pectoral fins

11. Their diet is pretty similar to most sharks, on their “shopping list” you’re likely to find small fish such asherrings,  snappers, hakes, bonito, remoras and bass. They are also likely to feed on eels, rays, squid, crabs, crayfish and sometimes smaller sharks. It’s not unknown for the Ragged Tooth Shark to feed as a school, bunching shoals of fish by surrounding them in order to get their own nibbles.

Video Credit: Rae Du Plessis

Reference: Florida Museum www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu

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