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50 Facts About Tiger Sharks

Tiger sharks are known to be the second most dangerous shark species found in our oceans. Found inhabiting tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, this beautiful species of shark gets its name from the tiger like patternings and markings found along their bodies. If you are fascinated by these sea creatures and interested in finding out more about them, there are many facts that will help you to understand them further. From behavioural habits to appetite, there is so much to learn about these magnificent creatures.

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We have compiled a guide containing 50 facts about tiger sharks to teach you all about them. Continue reading if you want to find out some fun facts about this species and why they have been given the nickname of ''the garbage can of the sea''.

  1. Habitat, so where do tiger sharks live? Tiger sharks can be found in deep and shallow waters all over the world. However, most seem to prefer coastal areas with the occurrence of freshwater runoff. The travel habits of a tiger shark can vary quite a lot, even changing between the seasons. Similarly to birds and retirees, during the winter, the majority of tiger sharks head south. 

  1. They are an omnivorous species that are often found in tropical and warm temperature coastal waters worldwide. In fact, a tiger shark's movements are commonly guided by the water of a particular temperature and depth. A tiger shark is omnivorous due to its vast diet and capability of eating almost everything.

  1. Belonging to the largest order of sharks, this also includes blue, hammerhead, and bull sharks. 

  1. The sand tiger shark is the smaller cousin to the great white shark, try not to become confused by the two despite their similarities in name. The sand tiger shark is the only one of its kind that comes up to the surface of the water to gulp air. Tiger sharks are part of a different order known as the Carcharhiniformes.

  1. Galeocerdo Cuvier is the scientific name for tiger sharks. Galeocerdo originates from the Greek word Galeos which means shark.

  1. Tiger sharks are one of the largest species found in the ocean. In fact, in regards to their size, an average tiger shark ranks just behind the whale shark, the basking shark, and the great white shark.

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  1. You're probably now wondering how big a tiger shark is, well they can grow between 10-16 feet in length on average. 

  1. They are about as heavy as a horse, typically weighing 800-1500 pounds. Some may weigh as much as 1900 pounds.

  1. Tiger sharks are known to live up to 50 years of age. A specific age in which tiger sharks are known to live is unknown, however, they are more than likely to live longer than 12 years old. 

  1. Some tiger sharks have grown to an impressive 20 feet (6.1) meters in length. 

  1. What size can tiger sharks grow too? The largest size tiger shark that has ever been confirmed and recorded measures 18 feet in length and over 3000 pounds in weight.

  1. When tiger sharks give birth to their young, the pups measure just over 1 foot in length.

  1. Female tiger sharks grow a lot bigger than the male tiger sharks. This is the case with most large ocean fish species and it is because the females require more girth for carrying their young. 

  1. As suggested by their name, tiger sharks are born with dark stripes on the upper side of their body, resembling the markings seen on tigers. While these strips are clearly visible on those that are less than 5 feet long, as tiger sharks age, these markings fade away.

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  1. Tiger sharks are solitary hunters that are mainly nocturnal, and they are known to be excellent hunters. They are one of the top predators found in the ocean. 

  1. Their prey includes fish (even those of their own kind), as well as squid, jellyfish, sea turtles, clams, crabs, dolphins, seabirds, and seals. They also prey on crocodiles and sea snakes. Some are even known to prey on sick whales.

  1. These sharks love to eat and that doesn't just apply to the animals mentioned above. A variety of animals have been found inside their stomachs off the coast of Hawaii, including rats, dogs, cats, and even horses. 

  1. They have been nicknamed ''the garbage can of the ocean'' not just because of the animals that have been found inside of their stomachs, but also because of some other strange items that have been found too. It's safe to say that these sharks have a huge appetite as plastic bottles, beer bottles, tires, nails, clothing, and even explosives, just to mention a few, have been found inside their stomachs.

  1. They use their sharp eyesight to find their prey which is aided further by their keen sense of smell and sixth sense. Sharks have an amazing sense of smell which allows them to detect their prey from a distance.

  1. Sight, touch, smell, taste, hearing and electroreception is their sixth senses. 

  1. The sixth sense refers to a network of special cells that can detect electricity, hence the name electroreception. These special pores are located beneath the skin near the snout and are filled with a jelly-like substance that can detect electric fields. 

  1. An electric field is given off by each living being. Tiger sharks are almost certain to find their prey by heading in the direction of these fields. 

  1. They move very slowly once they have spotted their next meal, just like a tiger with their prey, then they silently stalk their prey. Due to their incredible senses, even the smallest of hints can alert them when prey is nearby. 

  1. When it comes to attacking their prey, their slow movements and camouflage stop them from being seen until the last moment.

  1. Tiger sharks move very fast, they will finish their prey within minutes once they have secured it. 

  1. Now let's look at some facts surrounding a tiger shark's teeth. They are very uniquely shaped somewhat resembling a sail of a boat. Their teeth are very large and have notched saw-like edges. This makes it much easier for them to eat their food in a saw-like manner.

  1. A tiger shark's teeth are so strong that they are able to break through sea turtle shells or clams. 

  1. They can simply grow new teeth in 24 hours if one should happen to break. Instead of getting cavities, sharks shed their teeth when needed and new ones will then appear in their place. Tiger sharks tend to lose at least one tooth every week.

  1. Tiger sharks are the only species of shark that are ovoviviparous. This refers to a combination of laying live eggs (oviparous) and giving birth to live young (viviparous). 

  1. Female tiger sharks develop the eggs inside their body, however, they do not lay them. 

  1. The egg remains inside the female's body. When nourished by the yolk of the egg it will hatch and continue its development.

  1. A tiger pup can take up to 16 months to be born.

  1. When they are fully developed, a tiger sharks litter can vary from anything between 10-80 pups. They generally tend to be around 51-76cm in length. 

  1. Female tiger sharks only tend to have pups around every 3 years. This is because of the long gestation period and the mating process which can be painful and troublesome. 

  1. The female is badly bitten by the male during the mating process. This can often result in wounds to the back, flank, and fins.

  1. Tiger shark pups aren't given any aftercare once they are born, however, the female tiger sharks are known to search for safe places to lay their eggs or give birth. Then once born, they are left to find their own food. The pups often stay together to remain safe. 

  1. Many pups end up being preyed upon by larger of their own species, due to them being abandoned. They tend to have fins that appear too big for their bodies and as they are smaller in size this can make them inefficient swimmers and easy prey for predators. 

  1. Although they are known to be a top predator, tiger sharks themselves aren't safe from predation. Many are eaten by other species of sharks including the great white and also killer whales. 

  1. It is rather rare for sharks to bite humans, however, the Tiger sharks are responsible for the most attacks on humans next to the great white. Due to their presence in warm waters and their regular visits to shallow reefs, harbors, and canals, in particular, there is a greater risk of a possible encounter with humans. For this reason, they are considered to be one of the most dangerous species of shark.

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  1. Since the late 1500s, there have been over 300 unprovoked attacks recorded by the great white shark. There have been 111 unprovoked attacks from tiger sharks, 31 of which resulted in fatalities. 

  1. The tiger shark is considered to be more dangerous than the great white in one sense. Whereas the great white tends to take one bite before swimming away, tiger sharks have a relatively undiscerning palate and tend to take one bite and then another, resulting in fatalities in more than one third of its attacks.

  1. Less than one fourth of attacks by tiger sharks results in a fatality. 

  1. Tiger sharks are thought to be responsible for the majority of shark attacks that occur in Hawaii. Every year, there are around 3-4 attacks in Hawaii alone.

  1. They are hunted as part of shark control systems due to their tendencies to attack humans. These shark control systems use baited drum lines and mesh nets with the aim of reducing the populations of tiger sharks to an area, as a result, it is hoped that there is a reduction in the number of tiger shark attacks against humans. 

  1. Tiger sharks' fins, skin, and liver contain a rich source of vitamin A and for that reason, they are hunted widely for sport and commercial use.

  1. There are some cases where tiger sharks are accidentally caught by fishing boats that are actually attempting to catch swordfish, tuna, and squid. This is referred to as bycatch, where they are unintentionally killed by those trying to harvest other species in the same waters. 
  1. For several of their populations, there is evidence of decline. This is because they have been heavily fished for their meat, skin, and oil, however, at the moment they are not facing a high risk of becoming extinct.
  1. Tiger sharks are considered to be a sacred spirit of one of their ancestors by some native Hawaiians. They are thought to be reincarnations of family members who passed away some time ago. This is referred to as na ʻaumakua.
  1. Some native Hawaiians also believe that their eyeballs have magical powers of visual perception. They believed that you would be able to see better or even see into the future if you ate an eye. 
  1. Finally, according to ancient legends, the mother of great king Kamehameha, craved and requested tiger shark eyeballs during her pregnancy. She did so in the hope that her son would become a great leader.

What is the current conservation status of the tiger shark?

Tiger sharks are a relatively fast-growing and fecund species that are highly fertile and capable of creating an abundance of offspring. Due to their large global population and high reproductive rates, they are a species that continues to thrive. Despite being regularly caught and unintentionally killed by fisherman hunting other fish, and in some cases intentionally caught in target fisheries, on the IUCN list, tiger sharks are currently only classed as a near threatened species. The IUCN list is an important indicator regarding the health of the world's biodiversity, a powerful tool that goes much further than a list of species and their statuses. 

It is also likely that many tiger sharks are killed as a result of commercial and recreational fishing and fin harvesting although this is illegal. Due to their fins skin and flesh containing lots of vitamin A, they are heavily harvested because this is then processed to create oil. Although they are a highly fertile species, many go around three years without having pups which could make them more susceptible to fishing pressure. 

However, despite these threats to the species, tiger sharks do not generally face a high risk of extinction at the moment, although there is likely to be a further decline in the future if demand, particularly for their fins, and also if target and non-target fishing continue. 

We hope that this guide has equipped you with all of the knowledge that you were hoping to learn about tiger sharks. Although they are considered to be the most dangerous species of shark, they are magnificent sea creatures which are very interesting to learn about.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Tiger Sharks Dangerous to Humans?

Tiger sharks are one of the most dangerous sharks and are known to attack humans without provocation. They have been involved in roughly 111 attacks since records were started and there have been 31 confirmed fatalities. The only shark to have been involved in more unprovoked attacks and fatalities is the Great White, whose fearsome reputation requires no introduction. 

While the Tiger shark has been involved in fewer attacks, it is no less dangerous and much caution should be taken in waters where these sharks live. One of the most dangerous and little-known traits of this shark is its tendency to move slowly in the water, making it very difficult to spot until the danger is already very great.

Once within striking distance, these sharks can unleash an incredible burst of speed which is impossible for most creatures to outrun, meaning they are exceedingly dangerous when they decide to attack. Their jaws are very powerful, befitting this shark’s status as the second-largest predatory shark after the great white.

Where do you find Tiger sharks?

Tiger sharks are found in a very wide range of coastal waters in tropical and subtropical climates. They are a nomadic species that move around according to warm currents and during the colder months of the year, they stay near to the equator where the year-round temperature remains warm and consistent. 

They can be found in many places from the Gulf of Mexico to South America, China, Indonesia, India, and Australia but they are most commonly found in the Caribbean. While these sharks do tend to prefer coastal waters, they lurk in the depths off the shelves of reefs but will pursue prey into shallower waters.

They have been spotted in the Mediterranean sea at least twice and have even been spotted as far south as New Zealand, meaning that these sharks truly live up to their nomadic reputation and can be found in colder climates although this is a rarity. 

What do you do if you see a Tiger shark?

The most important thing to do when encountering a shark also happens to be one of the most difficult things, staying calm. Panicking around a predatory shark is akin to ringing a dinner bell, signaling that you are prey and that you are trying to escape. Sharks have a powerful sense of smell which they use to track prey over vast distances, however, their eyesight is comparatively poor.

The main tool sharks use to find prey at close range is a specialized organ in their noses known as Ampullae of Lorenzini, which are sensory organs able to detect the tiniest movements in the water around them. A frenzied reaction to their approach will be easily sensed by the shark using these organs, making the likelihood of attack far greater.

Your number one goal is to get back to shallow water as quickly as possible without panicking and splashing around. Moving slowly backward from the shark in a very controlled and deliberate way is the most effective method of escape without provoking an attack.

Trying to stay facing the shark to observe its movements is important as you continue to back away. In the event of an attack, it is advised to try and poke the shark’s eyes, place a hand in the gills or punch the nose of the shark in order to force it to back off or release you if it does bite.

How do you identify a Tiger Shark?

Tiger sharks are quite easy to identify due to their size and the subtle stripes that run down their sides. As one of the largest predatory sharks their size is a dead giveaway, as is their relatively small dorsal fin and blunt noses.

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