One of the most feared of the Reef’s residents is also one of the most awesome!
12 fearsome facts about tiger sharks
1. Name game
The tiger shark’s scientific name is Galeocerdo cuvier. Galeocerdo comes from the Greek words galeos, for ‘shark’, and kerdos, for ‘fox’. (Oops, maybe it should have been called “fox shark” instead!)
2. Number 2
The tiger shark is runner up to the great white as most deadly shark in the world in terms of the number of attacks on humans.
3. Earning its stripes
When a tiger shark is born, it has dark stripes on the upper side of its body, however they fade as the shark gets older.
4. Girl power
The tiger shark is one of the largest sharks in the ocean and generally female tiger sharks are larger than males. On average, they grow 3 to 5 m long and weigh around 360 to 680 kg.
5. Tiger tales
Other than their stripes, tiger sharks share another trait with tigers: they’re excellent hunters. Tiger sharks are top predators, preying on fish (including other sharks), jellyfish, squid, turtles, crabs, clams, dolphins, seals, dugongs, sea birds and even crocodiles, sea snakes and sick whales.
6. Sixth sense
Sharks have a ‘sixth sense’ they can use to help them find their prey. Called the ampullae of Lorenzini, these special pores beneath the skin around the shark’s snout are filled with a jelly-like substance which can detect electric fields. All living beings give off an electric field, so by heading in the direction of the field, the shark can find prey.
7. Stealth mode
Once they close in on a meal, tiger sharks move very slowly, much like tigers silently stalking their prey. This slow movement, together with the camouflage provided by the tiger shark’s skin, prevents the shark from being seen until the very last moment and it’s too late for the prey to escape.
The tiger shark is the only species in its family that is ovoviviparous, which means that it has pups through a combination of laying eggs (oviparous) and giving birth to live young (viviparous). Female tiger sharks develop eggs inside their bodies, but don’t lay them. Instead, the eggs hatch inside the female’s body and continue to develop there, taking as long as 16 months before being born as live pups.
A female tiger shark can have as many as 80 pups in a litter!
9. Predator becomes prey
While many tiger shark pups are preyed upon by larger sharks because they are abandoned, even adult tiger sharks aren’t completely safe. They can still be eaten by great white sharks and killer whales.
10. Big bites
The unusual shape of a tiger shark’s teeth has been likened to the Sydney Opera House sails! A tiger shark’s teeth are so strong they can slice through turtle and shells with ease. And a broken tooth is no problem because the shark will simply grow a new one the next day.
11. Garbage can of the sea
Tiger sharks’ love of eating knows no bounds. Rats, cats, dogs, sheep, goats and even horses have been found in the stomachs of tiger sharks. They’ve even been found to consume far less palatable items including bottles, tyres, nails, balls, clothing, license plates and even explosives.
12. Great Barrier feast
In late 2016, Richard 'Shark Tracker' Fitzpatrick's research revealed that Raine Island's tiger sharks are inherently lazy when it comes to food and opt for the easy eating option. Dining on already dead turtles for a fuss-free feast trumps the option of catching a live meal for the tiger shark!
ABC News reported on the research ...