The Atlantic sharpnose sharks often come into contact with humans because of their choice of habitat but they pose little threat to humans. Most bites by this shark are nonfatal and not serious. However, they are one of the most commonly caught small coastal shark species and their meat is often sold for human consumption as well as bait to catch larger species of sharks.
NAME AND LOCATION
The Atlantic sharpnose gets its name from a characteristically long snout and it is found down the Atlantic Coast of the Americas from New Brunswick, Canada down to Brazil. Though, it is most commonly found from South Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico. The valid name is Rhizoprionodon terraenovae. The genus name Rhizoprionodon is derived from the Greek, “rhiza” = root, “prion” = saw, and “odous” = teeth. Terraenovae is from the Latin language, meaning “new land”.
The Atlantic sharpnose is a small shark that attains a maximum size of 4 feet. The lower and upper jaws have 24 or 25 rows of similar teeth that are triangular and oblique with slightly notched outer margins. The body color can be brown, olive-gray or blue-gray turning to white on its underside. Adults may have some white spots and smaller sharpnoses generally have black edged dorsal and caudal fins. Other distinguishing characteristics are long labial furrows around corners of mouth and nictitating membranes over eyes.
Mating occurs during late spring to early summer. The gestation period is 10 to 11 months. Each litter varies with an average of 4 to 7 pups. The newborns are 9 to 14 inches in length.
This species feeds primarily on small bony fish, worms, shrimp, crabs, and mollusks. Bony fish include menhaden, eels, silversides, wrasses, jacks, toadfish, and filefish.
Any large carnivorous fish, including larger sharks, are potential predators. However, humans may be the worst predator. Fisheries down the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. target sharpnose sharks. They are less valuable to commercial fishers than other species due to small fin size. Despite their reduced value, they are still caught in large quantities and represent the most commonly caught small coastal shark species. On a good note for these sharks, the IUCN (World Conservation Union) assesses the conservation status of species. And currently, in U.S. waters, there is a limit of one Atlantic Sharpnose shark per person per trip for recreational fishers.