Tiger Shark, Galeocerdo cuvier Click to enlarge image
Tiger Shark, Galeocerdo cuvier. Image: Gina Mascord
© CC BY-NC 4.0

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    cuvier
    Genus
    Galeocerdo
    Family
    Carcharhinidae
    Order
    Carcharhiniformes
    Class
    Chondrichthyes
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    The Tiger Shark grows to at least 6 m in length.

Introduction

The Tiger Shark is a large potentially dangerous species that is usually found in coastal, tropical marine waters.



What do Tiger Sharks look like?

Identification

The Tiger Shark can be recognised by its blunt head, serrated cocks-comb-shaped teeth and its colouration. Small juveniles are grey with dark reticulations, which change to vertical bars in fish up to 3 m in length. The bars may be faint or lacking in individuals longer than 3 m.


Tiger Shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Tiger Shark, Galeocerdo cuvier. Image: Mark Rosenstein
© CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Where do Tiger Sharks live?

Habitat

Although sometimes seen well offshore, it is not an oceanic species. Found on or near continental and insular shelves. In turbind areas such as estuaries and harbours to clear water lagoons and atolls. From the surface to ~150 m deep. They are most active at night.


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Distribution

The Tiger Shark occurs worldwide in tropical and some subtropical waters, making seasonal visits to temperate areas.

In Australia the Tiger Shark is known from Windy Harbour in south-western Western Australia around the tropical north and south to the southern coast of New South Wales coast.



What do Tiger Sharks eat and what is their lifecycle?

Feeding and diet

It is a scavenger that will eat a wide range of prey and even indigestible objects. Turtles, sea snakes, crustaceans, cephalopods, small sharks and fishes are common prey items and perhaps surprisingly also oceanic pufferfishes (Bonnie Holmes, pers comm. 2011). They have also been known to ingest seabirds, marine mammals, jellyfish and marine iguanas.

Life History

Tiger Sharks are viviparous (give birth to live young) and produce litters between 10-82 pups after a gestation period of 12-16 months. Young are born at ~51-76 cm and grow to over 6 m. Females mature at about 330 cm TL in 7-12 years and males grow to about 300 cm in 7-8 years. They can live for over 30 years.


  • Tiger Shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
    A set of tiger shark jaws from the Australian Museum Fish Collection, registration number AMS I.27078-001. Image: Paul Ovenden
    © Australian Museum
  • Scales of a Tiger Shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
    Scanning electron micrograph of the scales from a 2.9 m long Tiger Shark caught off Broken Bay, New South Wales, March 1998 (AMS I. 40534-002). Image: Sue Linday
    © Australian Museum

Are Tiger Sharks dangerous?

Danger to humans

Due to its large size, scavenging nature and shallow-water feeding, Tiger Sharks are considered dangerous to people.


Tiger Shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Tiger Shark, Galeocerdo cuvier. Image: masazul
© CC BY-NC 4.0

References

  1. Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 292.
  2. Allen, G.R. & R. Swainston. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 201.
  3. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  4. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.
  5. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 1994 Sharks and Rays of Australia. CSIRO. Pp. 513.
  6. Paxton, J.R. 2003. Shark nets in the spotlight. Nature Australia. Spring. 27 (10): 84.
  7. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.
  8. Springer, V.G. & J.P. Gold. 1989. Sharks in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book. Smithsonian Institution. Pp. 187.