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The sharks of Ocean Journey
A Species List

A variety of shark species can be found in the Aquarium’s Ocean Journey. Visitors first encounter epaulette and bamboo sharks in the Shark Island on Level 4. Guests may touch these harmless sharks and their cousins, the stingrays. Both the epaulette and bamboo sharks are small and pose no threat to humans. The toothy sand tiger sharks and the agile sandbar sharks can be seen cruising in the Secret Reef exhibit on Levels 1 and 2. Visitors might also spot the sandtiger and sandbar sharks while exploring the Undersea Cavern.

Epaulette Shark, Hemiscyllium ocellatum
The epaulette shark is a member of the carpet shark family and rarely exceeds 3.5 feet in length. It has a long, slender body that is characterized by two dark spots found over the pectoral fins. Dark, irregular spots cover the rest of the shark’s body.

These sharks are found in Australia and New Guinea. They are often seen in tide pools and prefer to live in the shallow waters of coral reefs. The epaulette shark feeds on bottom-dwelling invertebrates such as worms, shrimp and small shellfish.

Brown-banded Bamboo Shark, Chiloscyllium punctatum
The brown-banded bamboo shark is named for the coloration it has as a juvenile. Thick, chocolate-brown bands run across its body. The bands fade as the shark matures. This species also is a member of the carpet shark family.

Bamboo sharks have very small, whisker-like barbels located just below each nostril that are used to locate food. These sharks feed on bottom-dwelling invertebrates and crustaceans including shrimp and shellfish.

Although bamboo sharks breathe oxygen in the water through their gills, the brown-banded bamboo shark has been known to survive up to 12 hours out of the water.

Like the epaulette shark, bamboo sharks prefer to live in shallow water and tide pools. They are found in India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, the Philippines and northern Australia.

White Spotted Bamboo Shark, Chiloscyllium plagiosum
The white spotted bamboo shark, also a member of the carpet shark family, is recognizable by the numerous white spots found on its body.

This species of bamboo shark lays eggs in thick egg cases. The eggs hatch after three months and the young are approximately 5 inches long. These animals are regularly consumed by humans and are also used in Chinese medicine.

Like other carpet sharks, white spotted bamboo sharks prefer to live in shallow water near coral reefs. They are found in coastal waters near Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and India.

Sand Tiger Shark, Carcharias taurus
With its large jaws, toothy grin and powerful body, the sand tiger fits the mental image that most people have when the word “shark” is mentioned.

Despite its menacing appearance, the sand tiger shark is actually quite harmless. This species of shark is often described as sluggish because they swim more slowly than other types of sharks. These sharks can be approached and are not considered a threat or a danger to humans. Sand tiger sharks are usually found on the ocean floor near shorelines. Although they are not the largest of the shark species, sand tigers can reach lengths of 10 feet and can weigh more than 250 pounds.

Sand tiger sharks control their buoyancy by gulping air at the surface of the water and holding the air in their stomachs. This allows the animal to hover with neutral buoyancy in the water column and conserve energy. Sand tigers will actually burp to rid themselves of this air.

Sand tiger sharks are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Maine to Argentina, the Atlantic coast of Europe to North Africa and in the Mediterranean Sea.

Sand tiger populations have declined in the past 10 years and they are listed as a vulnerable species. However, a recommendation has been made to change the status of this species to endangered.

Sandbar Shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus
The sleek sandbar sharks are usually smaller than sand tigers, reaching an average length of 6.5 feet and average weight of 115 pounds.

Sandbar sharks are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. Young sandbar sharks are about 2 feet long at birth and are born in litter that range in size from one to 14 pups. Young sandbar sharks remain for a time in estuaries (areas where freshwater rivers meet the ocean) and are often preyed upon by tiger and bull sharks.

Sandbar sharks are important animals for commercial fishermen on the East Coast. They are harvested for their fins, flesh, skins and livers. The sandbar shark is the most abundant of the large sharks in the western Atlantic. A plan to manage the populations of this shark was implemented in 1993 and has helped to stabilize the population.

The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $17.95 per adult and $9.50 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.95 per adult and $5.50 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $21.95 for adults and $12.50 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

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