Tiger shark

Share:

Scientific name

Galeocerdo cuvier

Family

Carcharhinidae

Size

Up to 7.4 meters (25 feet), but 5 m (16.5 feet) more common

Lifespan

27-37 years

Did you know?

The tiger shark is the only species in the family Carcharhinidae that reproduce by lecithotrophic viviparity. This means that the embryos are nourished solely by yolk sacs during gestation, rather than by a placental attachment to the mother as is more common for other Carcharhinid sharks.

About Tiger sharks

Tiger sharks are among the most feared species of sharks in the world, with a reputation for being aggressive and somewhat unpredictable. In actuality, tiger sharks are generally unaggressive and are important species for dive tourism in several areas around the world, though they are of course large predators and should be treated with respect. Tiger sharks are identifiable by their distinctive spots, which fade with age, and by their broad head and snout. The teeth of tiger sharks are distinctively shaped with a curved saw edge that are used like can openers to cut through the hard shells of sea turtles, and they are among the only shark species known to actively target seabirds as a food source. These sharks are likely important to seagrass ecosystems, as in their absence grazers such as sea turtles and dugongs can overgraze an area and degrade the habitat. 

Diet

Tiger sharks have one of the broadest diets of all sharks, feeding on bony fishes, turtles, birds, mammals, and other elasmobranchs. Like many other species of sharks, their diets change as they grow and expand into different habitats. Smaller tiger sharks have diets that reflect their more coastal habitats, while larger sharks shift to more pelagic and deepwater prey species.

Distribution

Tiger sharks are distributed worldwide in tropical and warm temperate waters. They occur on shelf, reef, and slope habitats, and are occasionally associated with coral reefs. The species mostly occurs to 100 m depth but often dives to depths greater than 1,000 meters and is known to make extremely long-distance migrations.

Fun facts

  • Tiger sharks are the epitome of opportunistic feeders, and their diet studies can read like a menu from a garbage can: stomach contents have included tin foil, cans of SPAM, ham bones, horse, and mongoose, though bony fishes and elasmobranchs are still the most commonly consumed prey items.

Tiger shark photo gallery

More species to explore

Loggerhead turtle

Named for their large heads, loggerhead turtles have powerful jaws that are designed to crush hard prey. After hatching, the turtles spend the first 7

Read More

Nurse shark

Nurse sharks are benthic, or bottom-dwelling, sharks that are common in tropical and temperate seas in the Atlantic Ocean. Some divers (and scientists) consider them

Read More

Giant manta ray

Highly intelligent and social creatures, giant manta rays in some regions spend their days in large groups and at cleaning stations in shallow waters and

Read More