Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 207–228 | Cite as

Distribution, abundance and biology of the smalltooth sandtiger shark Odontaspis ferox (Risso, 1810) (Lamniformes: Odontaspididae)

  • Ian K. FergussonEmail author
  • Ken J. Graham
  • Leonard J. V. Compagno
Full Paper


The smalltooth sandtiger shark, Odontaspis ferox, has a cosmopolitan distribution across warm temperate and tropical waters, and although essentially demersal, it has also been captured pelagically in mid-ocean. The species often occurs inshore at steeply shelving coastal and insular locations, and has now been identified by divers at eight widely separated shallow water sites. In the Southern Hemisphere, most O. ferox were caught by trawl on the continental slope, where its bathic range was extended to at least 880 m. Large specimens (>200 cm TL) were found across the whole depth range, but almost all juveniles were caught between 200 and 600 m. The largest recorded male was 344 cm TL, and female 450 cm TL. The few biological data suggest that size at maturity for males is around 200–250 cm TL, and for females 300–350 cm. No pregnant females were recorded but size at birth is probably about 100 cm TL. Nowhere has the species been found in large numbers. Survey and commercial catch data from south-east Australian trawl grounds suggest that numbers of O. ferox there have declined since the advent of deepwater commercial trawling in the 1970s. In areas of steep untrawlable terrain, increased gill-netting and longlining are likely to impact on local populations, with mature individuals being particularly vulnerable. Although O. ferox is not specifically targeted by commercial fishing activities, its likely very low fecundity make it susceptible to local extirpation, even at seemingly small capture rates. This species is protected off New South Wales and is considered “vulnerable” globally, by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).


Upper slope Insular Oceanic Reproduction Trawling Decline 



The authors sincerely thank many people for their essential assistance in preparing this work. Descriptions and photographic images were provided by diver-photographers Heinz Buchbinder, Keith Gregor and Kim Westerskov (New Zealand), A. McNeil (Western Australia), Walid Noshie, Wissan Noshie and Fadi Fakhoury (Lebanon), Doug Perrine (Innerspace Visions, Honolulu), Carl Roessler (Sea Images, San Francisco), R. Sondi (Manta Reef Lodge, Pemba I.), Tony Wu, and Juan Zumbado.

Valuable communications, photographs and assistance were received from the following correspondents and colleagues: Algeria: Farid Hemida (USTHB/ISN, Algiers); Australia: Geoff Liggins, Nick Otway, and Dennis Reid (NSW Fisheries), David Pollard (NSW Fisheries, also thanked for his helpful comments on the manuscript), Mark McGrouther (Australian Museum, Sydney), Barry Hutchins (Museum of Western Australia), John D. Stevens (CSIRO, Hobart); Azores: Pedro N. Duarte (Universidade dos Açores), Alexandre A. Silva and Gui M. Menezes (Departamento de Oceanografia e Pescas, Universidade dos Açores); Canary Islands: Alvaro de Astica Hernández; Croatia: Alen Soldo (Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries, Split); France: Jean-Claude Quéro (IFREMER, La Rochelle), Bernard Seret (MNHN, Paris); Greece: A. Melenkovitch and C. Gofas, Sifonos Island; Italy: Eleonora de Sabata (Storie e Immagini di Mar, Rome), Fabrizio Serena (ARPAT-GEA, Livorno), Marino Vacchi (Istituto Centrale per la Ricerca Applicata al Mar, Rome), Marco Zuffa (Museo “Luigi Donini”, Bologna); Japan: Hideki Nakano (National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries), Kazuhiro Nagaya (University of Hokkaido); Lebanon: Marie Abboud-Abi Saab (Centre National de Recherches Marines, Batroun), Raymound Abdelmour; Malta: Alex Buttigieg, Trevor Meyer; Titian Schembri (Department of Biology, University of Malta); Adriana Vella and Jesmond Dalli (Conservation Research Group, Department of Biology, University of Malta); Mexico: Carlos Villavicencio-Garayzar (UABCS, La Paz); New Zealand: Malcolm Francis (NIWA, Wellington), Andrew Stewart (National Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa), Clinton Duffy (Department of Conservation), C. Thorburn (Thorburn Consultants, Auckland), A. Christie (Aquarium Curator, Auckland); San Marino: I. Bianchi (Uno Squalo per Amico,); South Africa: Sheldon Dudley and Geremy Cliff (Natal Sharks Board, Durban); Turkey: Murat Bilecenoglu (Ege University, Faculty of Fisheries); United Kingdom: Rachel Cavanagh (IUCN-SSG), Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch (Shark Trust), Jo Ruxton and Michael deGruy (BBC Natural History Unit, Bristol); USA: Ramon Bonfil (Wildlife Conservation Society, New York), Bob Lea (California Department of Fish and Game), Peter Klimley (Bodega Marine Laboratory, University of California, Davis), Samuel H. Gruber (University of Miami, who kindly brought the Malpelo Island observations to our initial attention). Finally, we thank the two anonymous reviewers whose helpful suggestions allowed various beneficial amendments to our original manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian K. Fergusson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ken J. Graham
    • 2
  • Leonard J. V. Compagno
    • 3
  1. 1.BBC Bristol, Broadcasting HouseBristolUK
  2. 2.NSW Department of Primary IndustriesCronulla Fisheries Research CentreCronullaAustralia
  3. 3.Shark Research CenterIziko-South African MuseumCape TownSouth Africa

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