Tiger Sharks are a type of requiem shark from the family Carcharhinidae. There are some pretty cool Tiger Shark facts, like how they are one of these largest sharks in the ocean but are very different from similarly named Sand Tiger Sharks.
While Tiger Sharks have an unearned reputation for being antagonistic toward humans, they are in reality powerful, magnificent creatures that are often vulnerable to fishing and tourism practices.
So in order to protect these sharks, we need to learn some Tiger Shark facts.
The Interesting Biology Of Tiger Sharks
The Tiger Shark, or Galeocerdo cuvier, can be found inhabiting tropical and subtropical waters worldwide and is aptly named for the tiger-like patterning along its body. These series of stripes and dots, often bluish in hue, are most visible in Tiger Shark pups. While these notable markings fade with age, mature Tiger Sharks’ bluish bodies and yellow bellies help camouflage them sharks while they are hunting their prey. They are also distinguished by their round eyes and pectoral fins are located behind their five gill slits.
Tiger Sharks can live up to 50 years with females tending to grow larger than males. It is believed that females are bigger, because they need to be able to carry their large litter of pups during gestation. Tiger Sharks range in size from 10 to 14 feet (3.25 to 4.25 meters) long. They weigh on average between 850 to 1,400 pounds (385 to 635 kilograms). However, one especially large female Tiger Shark found off the coast of Australian measured 18 feet (5.5 meters) and 3,360 pounds (1,524 kilograms).
Tiger Sharks Are Impressive Hunters
Also known as the Sea Tiger, Tiger Sharks are carnivores known to have an indiscriminate appetite, eating anything from fish and mollusks to sea turtles, dolphins, and sea lions. They’ve even been known to eat other sharks and scavenge whales. Sadly their immense appetite has lead to eat many things like oil cans, tires, and other inedible items. Once they find their prey, Tiger Sharks move slowly, often stalking, encircling, and prodding it. If possible, the Tiger Shark tries eat its prey whole to avoid injury.
Tiger Sharks also have certain adaptations that enable them to find hidden prey and hunt in the darkness of night or murky water. They use electroreceptors on their blunt snouts, called ampullae of Lorenzini, to detect and hunt their prey. They can also sense movement from their prey through a sensory organ called a lateral line, which covers the length of their bodies on each side. Tiger Sharks have a reflective layer of tissue behind their retina, increasing their ability to see prey in low light and can turn quickly thanks to the placement of its dorsal fin and high back. Their teeth are serrated, extremely sharp, and are continually replaced by fresh rows of new teeth. Tiger Shark jaws are so powerful they can even break through clams and turtle shells.
Tiger Sharks Love Warm Waters
While Tiger Sharks do occasionally frequent shallow waters, it is more common for them to be found depths of around 1,100 feet (350 meters). They can be found throughout warmer surface waters, estuaries, and murky water near coastlines. They are known to migrate with changing seasons to follow their prey, traveling up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) per day in search of food.
Tiger Sharks Have Unique Mating Rituals
It can take years for Tiger Sharks to reach sexual maturity. Females mate once every three years through internal fertilization and produce litters ranging from 10 to 80 pups. The pups gestate inside their mother for up to 16 months and are born ovoviviparously. This means the young hatch from eggs inside the mother and then are born live once fully developed. In the Carcharhinidae family, the Tiger Shark is the only species that births pups ovoviviparously.
Each pup is born 20 to 30 inches (51 to 76 cm) in length. It is believed that males reach sexual maturity around 7.5 to 9.5 feet (2.3 to 2.9 m), while females reach sexual maturity around 8.2 to 11.5 feet (2.5 to 3.5 m). Pups are on their own after birth and must learn to hunt by themselves. It is common for young pups to stick together for protection.
Mating occurs from March to May in the Northern Hemisphere and November to January in the Southern Hemisphere with births occurring the following year from April to June in the Northern Hemisphere and December to February in the Southern Hemisphere. The male Tiger Shark uses its teeth to hold the female Tiger Shark still during mating, during which he inserts one of his claspers into the female’s cloaca to guide his sperm inside her. Female Tiger Sharks are often badly bitten by the male during this process.
Tiger Sharks Inspire Myths
To Native Hawaiians, Tiger Sharks are believed to be sacred reincarnations of deceased family members. Hawaiians believe Tiger Shark eyeballs have special powers that would allow them to see better or to give them the gift of clairvoyance. Hawaiian folklore says that the mother of the most famous King of Hawaii, King Kamehameha asked for Tiger Shark eyeballs during her pregnancy, because she wanted him to have the great qualities of a leader.
Tiger Sharks Are Under Threat From Humans
Given their tendency to frequent reefs, harbors, and river mouths, humans in these areas are likely to encounter Tiger Sharks. While are considered apex predators, humans have hunted Tiger Sharks in efforts to protect tourism. They are also fishing for shark fins and meat. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species designated the Tiger Shark as a near threatened species. Due to sharks culling, finning, and fishing and their slow reproductive and maturation rates, they could someday become extinct.
Tiger Sharks are an amazing species of shark. They are apex predators and have incredibly hunting skills. Though they are feared because of their aggressive natures and common proximity to humans, Tiger Sharks are actually the ones in danger. Between shark finning and overfishing, these beautiful creatures could be lost forever if we don’t learn more about them.