The Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)
The tiger shark is considered to be one of the most dangerous sharks in the oceans. The tiger shark is second only to the great white shark in the number of recorded attacks on humans, although the attack rate is still low according to researchers.
The Tiger Shark is the fourth largest species of shark, growing to over 15 feet and weighing more than a ton.
The Tiger Shark is found in both tropical and temperate waters throughout the world. However, the tiger shark is a nomadic, tropical species that generally follows the warm currents, moving towards the equator during the colder months and away during the warmer months. The tiger shark is often found close to the coast, mainly in deep waters that line reefs, but it will follow prey in shallower waters. Tiger sharks have been recorded at depths ranging from 10 feet to nearly 3,000 feet.
The tiger shark is an apex predator, with a reputation for eating anything, including man-made objects, such as baseballs, car license plates, old oil cans and tires. For this reason, the tiger shark is also know as “the garbage can of the sea”. Young tiger sharks prey on small fish and invertebrates, such as jellyfish, squid and various other mollusks. Upon nearing sexual maturity, their prey selection changes to larger animal, including larger species of fish (even other tiger sharks), sea birds, sea snakes, crustaceans, sea turtles and marine mammals. Even terrestrial mammals, such as horses, sheep and dogs have been found in the stomachs of tiger sharks.
The tiger shark is a deadly predator, that mainly hunts at night. The tiger shark has excellent eyesight, an acute sense of smell and the ability to pick up low-frequency pressure waves in the water, all of which the tiger shark uses to locate its prey. The tiger shark often eats its prey whole. However, the tiger shark’s broad jaws and large, serrated teeth, enable the shark to take large bites out of any prey too large to eat whole.
Male tiger sharks reach sexual maturity at about seven to ten feet in length and females when slightly larger. Tiger sharks are ovoviviparous and the eggs hatch internally with the young born fully developed (about 30 inches long). Female tiger sharks breed about every three years. In the Northern Hemisphere breeding season is generally between March and May, with pups born between April and June of the following year. In the Southern Hemisphere, breeding season is usually between November and January with a 13 to 16 month gestation period. Litters generally range from 10 to 80 pups.
The tiger shark is considered a near threatened species due to heavy fishing by humans.