The tiger shark is considered the most dangerous tropical shark. It is second only to the great white shark on the overall danger scale. Its scientific name, Galeocerdo cuvier, is believed to have Greek and Latin origins translating to “Aristotle’s shark,” “cunning,” and “the fox.”
The tiger shark is commonly known as the sea tiger, but some people refer to it as the man-eater shark.
Just like its jungle counterpart, tiger sharks are considered dangerous to humans. They are inquisitive and aggressive, which can be a deadly combination when coming into close contact with humans. Unlike the great white shark, the tiger shark will eat humans after an attack.
Tiger sharks are found worldwide in warm, tropical, and subtropical waters. They often swim in the deep but will come up to the shallows when hunting. This species is considered nocturnal, mostly active at night.
Tiger sharks are large sharks, but not quite as big as a great white shark. A typical tiger shark is between 10 and 14 feet in length, but the longest can be up to 20 feet. They can weigh up to 1,400 pounds, about as heavy as a fully grown cow!
Tiger shark bodies are brownish-gray, but it is their stripes that make their coloring unique. As their name indicates, tiger sharks have tiger-like stripes that are black. These markings are very visible when they are juveniles or young but fade, becoming almost invisible, as the shark ages. Tiger shark pups are not born striped but are born spotted! The spots become stripes as the tiger shark matures.
Tiger sharks are easily recognizable because of their blunt snouts. Their jaws are powerful enough to crack open the shells of sea turtles, so as you can imagine, their bite force is immense! Their large teeth have a distinct shape with a curved cusp(end) and edges that are finely serrated.
Tiger sharks have known as carnivores (meat-eaters) but will eat anything they can fit in its mouth. Some scientists refer to them as generalist predators.
They are definitely not picky eaters! Tiger sharks have the nickname “garbage cans of the sea” because they will eat anything they can find! Fish, other sharks, seals, lobster, crabs, and other ocean life are their primary targets, but tiger shark stomach content analysis has also revealed unusual objects such as license plates and old tires!
As with other species of sharks, tiger sharks are dependent upon their senses to survive and catch their prey. A tiger shark has extremely good eyesight. It has a special gill slit, which lets oxygen flow directly to the brain and eyes. To protect their incredible eyes, tiger sharks possess a special “third eyelid.” This special membrane closes over the eyes to protect them when the shark attacks its prey.
Tiger sharks use their blunt noses to detect prey. They can smell a possible meal within 100 yards! For a human, that would be like smelling a hot dog all the way from one end of a football field to the other!
Tiger sharks are ovoviviparous, so the baby tiger sharks form as eggs before being born. Female tiger sharks carry the babies for at least 9 months, with some scientists believing this range can be between 14-16 months. Like other sharks, baby tiger sharks are called pups.
Females give birth to a large litter, anywhere from 10-80 pups! The newborn tiger sharks are 2-3 feet long. The mother will not have another litter for 3 more years.
Tiger sharks are fished both commercially and for sport. Their livers are highly sought after because of the amount of Vitamin A, an essential vitamin for eye health, contained in the organ. It is reprocessed for human use.
Since tiger sharks do not reproduce at a fast rate and because of the fishing pressure placed on the population, the tiger shark is listed as Near Threatened.
- Tiger sharks are species that migrate, which means they move from one region to another, usually following the seasons. Each June, tiger sharks can be found off the coast of Hawaii, where they go to feed on albatross. Studies of movement patterns revealed their annual migrations could take them all the way across the Atlantic Ocean!
- Since tiger sharks literally eat garbage, sometimes they get an upset stomach. In order to soothe their stomach, they can turn it inside out to eject nonedible objects!
- One of the weirdest things ever found in a tiger shark’s stomach was a chicken coop complete with chickens!