We introduce Melissa’s FAVORITE shark, the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier). The stripes, the teeth, their massive size. Sigh. Let’s talk about the shark that kicked off the 2016 Shark Week with a big splash.
The genus name Galeocerdo is derived from the ancient Greek: "γαλεος" (galeos) = Aristotle's shark; "κερδω" (kerdo) = pig. And while they lack a piggy snout and the usual pink-hue, they sure have an appetite of a piggy! By that, we mean they eat everything (see some examples here). In fact, they have a bad reputation for it, nicknamed “the garbage can of the sea.” This sort of goes to show you how bad pollution has gotten, as some of these things definitely should not be in the ocean.
These sharks can get quite big, up to 4.25 m (14 feet). However, sometimes they have been measured up to 6 m (20 ft). But they’re not likely to get confused with any other big shark, as their tiger-like markings are quite distinctive (being more so when they are younger, fading as they age). They’re not orange and black, however; they are a gray-brown color, with a white belly.
Along with their coloration, they’ve got a quite unique body type, too. They are solidly built, with an almost square, blunted snout. Their first dorsal fin is longer and bigger than their second, and they have a dermal ridge between the two fins, along the back.
Melissa interjection: tiger shark teeth are some of my favorite teeth. The day I find a tiger shark tooth, I will squeal of happiness. They’re super serrated, sharp and curved. Perfect for opening up turtle shells like a can opener. Although opportunistic feeders, their normal diet includes turtles, marine mammals, birds, fish and crabs. Speaking of diets, many sharks do go through a dietary shift as they grow up from juvenile to adults. For tiger sharks, it looks something like this:
Juveniles: teleost fishes, seabirds, cephalopods, crustaceans (and sadly trash).
Adults: sharks and rays, teleosts, crustaceans, seabirds, marine turtles, dolphins (… and yep, still trash).
These animals are mainly solitary, only getting together when mating or when many are attracted by a bait ball or some great opportunity to feed.
Speaking of mating, the tiger shark is the only species of its family (Carcharhinidae) that is ovoviviparous. Gestation lasts anywhere from 14 to 16 months, and females mate once every three years. Mating in the Northern Hemisphere is between March and May, giving birth between April and June the following year. In the Southern Hemisphere, mating takes place in November, December, or early January. Here, you can see the first ever tiger shark sonogram—it reveals pups!
Tiger sharks embark on large migrations, following warm currents, and are found in most temperature and tropical waters (except the Mediterranean Sea). A popular species, they’re actually considered Near Threatened (NT) by the IUCN. They’re both a target species but also caught as bycatch; fished for their flesh, fins, skin, liver oil and cartilage, they can fetch a pretty penny. These sharks are also popular for recreational fishers, since they put up a good fight and are usually on the bigger side.
They're one of the most charismatic sharks out there, and if you haven't gone diving with them, we strongly suggest you do!
what are your thoughts on this animal?
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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