The Tiger Shark, also called Galeocerdo Cuvier in the scientific community, is the only member of the Galeocerdo genus. This shark is an aggressive predator and is found mostly in tropical and warm waters. Being larger than its requiem cousins, they can grow up to a length of 15 – 16 feet or 5 meters and can weigh around 1,800 pounds or 800 kilograms. Imagine having one of those on the end of your fishing pole! There have been isolated cases where they get much larger than that. Also called the sea tiger, they get their name from the tiger like stripes on the body which fades away as it grows older. They also earned the nickname The Wastebasket Of The Sea because they will eat virtually anything, including human garbage and trash which floats out to sea.
Found around the Pacific Islands, the they prefer to hunt in the dark. Their normal prey includes smaller shark species and a variety of fish, dolphins, birds, turtles, crustaceans and squid. In turn they are hunted by humans for game and finning. Because this shark enjoys visiting canals, harbors and shallow reefs, which are often areas used by humans, a tiger Shark is considered dangerous and has the second largest number of attack data after the Great White Shark. It is also prone to being fished out frequently.
This is a prize catch for many fisheries, especially in tropical locations. The sharks skin, fins, liver and flesh are considered to be delicacies. More specifically, the liver is very rich in vitamin A and is used to manufacture vitamin pills. Due to such heavy fishing practices, the population of this shark has dwindled.
Currently, the Tiger Shark is considered near threatened due to its hunting by humans. They’ve also been recently put on the Marine red list, which makes it illegal to fish or hunt Tiger Sharks across the world.
This shark prefers warm waters and tropical temperatures. Although this shark is a nomad, its movements are almost always guided by water temperatures and deep waters. Even though they are known to prefer deep water, they will sometimes come into shallower water to enter reefs and canals in pursuit of prey.
They are abundantly found in the Caribbean region in addition to the North American beaches, and the Gulf of Mexico. They are also found near New Zealand, Australia, India, Africa and China. While most Tiger Sharks are found in those regions, they have also been spotted as far South as Cape Cod and as far North as Japan.
Found at average depths of around 350 meters (about 1100 feet), they have also been seen at depths exceeding 900 meters or about 3,000 feet (more than a half mile). Conversely, they have been spotted in the shallow waters of Hawaii in a depth of only about 10 feet. That’s considered to be way too shallow for its size. In coastal waters, they can also be seen at depths between 20 feet to 40 feet. Because of their habits of entering canals and harbors, the risk of human encounter is quite high and this shark is considered dangerous to humans.
This species is a slow swimmer; however, they blend very well with darker seas because of their color. This makes them almost invisible to their prey and once the prey is in catching distance, the shark can muster great speeds to catch it. They are known to be one of the stronger swimmers.
Being a nocturnal creature and an aggressive hunter, they are known to even attack other sharks, especially while hunting. Thus, a Tiger Shark is predominantly an individual hunter and does not care much for social interaction, even within its own species.
Tiger Sharks are seen frequently in the shallow waters of Hawaii. Since Hawaii is a high tourist area with lots of swimmers, the rate of shark attacks in the area is surprisingly low. It is documented that about four attacks happen every year and most of them are not fatal. The most widely publicized attack in recent times is when in the year 2003, Bethany Hamilton, a young (13 years) American surfer lost her arm to an attack.
Most attacks can be attributed to tourists feeding the sharks, which is illegal. Such feeding only improves the chances of shark attacks. During the 17 year period between the late fifties and mid seventies, many (about 4,700) Tiger Sharks were killed in order to offer protection to tourists. However, that did not help reduce the attack rates. With more and more tourist partaking in shark feeding to satisfy their longing for an adventure, the risk of attack will remain.
Tiger Sharks are the only requiem sharks that have n Viviparous reproductive cycle. The female Sharks are considered sexually mature once they reach a size of 2.5 meters or 8 feet and males are sexually developed once they grow to 2.3 meters or 7.5 feet. The reproduction method is simple. The male holds the female with its teeth to keep her stable and inserts one of its claspers into the female’s cloaca to guide the flow of sperm. Sometimes the female will sustain minor injuries during the act, but the injuries heal quickly.
Reproduction periods are between March and May and the pup birth occurs between April and June, the year after. That means the gestation period can be up to sixteen months and the pups are developed inside the mother’s body during this time. A healthy tiger shark pup is about 75 centimeters or 30 inches long when born and they are born in litters ranging anywhere between ten and eighty.
The life span of a Tiger Shark is not well documented, however, it is known that they can live beyond 12 years of age.