Photo: Tiger shark just below the surface

So called because of the tigerlike stripes on juveniles, the tiger shark is a voracious hunter—like its terrestrial namesake.

Photograph by Bill Curtsinger

Map

Map: Tiger shark range

Tiger Shark Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Fish
Diet:
Carnivore
Average life span in the wild:
Up to 50 years
Size:
10 to 14 ft (3.25 to 4.25 m)
Weight:
850 to 1,400 lbs (385 to 635 kg)
Group name:
School or shoal
Did you know?
The tiger shark's reputation as an indiscriminate eater that will swallow anything it finds, including garbage, has earned it the nickname "wastebasket of the sea."
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Tiger shark compared with adult man

Tiger sharks are named for the dark, vertical stripes found mainly on juveniles. As these sharks mature, the lines begin to fade and almost disappear.

These large, blunt-nosed predators have a duly earned reputation as man-eaters. They are second only to great whites in attacking people. But because they have a near completely undiscerning palate, they are not likely to swim away after biting a human, as great whites frequently do.

They are consummate scavengers, with excellent senses of sight and smell and a nearly limitless menu of diet items. They have sharp, highly serrated teeth and powerful jaws that allow them to crack the shells of sea turtles and clams. The stomach contents of captured tiger sharks have included stingrays, sea snakes, seals, birds, squids, and even license plates and old tires.

Tiger sharks are common in tropical and sub-tropical waters throughout the world. Large specimens can grow to as much as 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.5 meters) in length and weigh more than 1,900 pounds (900 kilograms).

They are heavily harvested for their fins, skin, and flesh, and their livers contain high levels of vitamin A, which is processed into vitamin oil. They have extremely low repopulation rates, and therefore may be highly susceptible to fishing pressure. They are listed as near threatened throughout their range.

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