Shark Shockers: 'The Garbage Cans of the Sea'

Tiger sharks, otherwise known as “Galeocerdo Curvier,” are considered the second-most dangerous shark in our oceans, after the Great White Sharks. They get their name from the vertical stripes all over their bodies, though the stripes fade as the shark matures. These sharks can age up to 15 years in the wild, and  can grow up to 14 feet long and weigh up to 1,400 pounds.  The larger animals can grow between 20-25 ft, weighing more than 1,900 pounds. They are commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical water worldwide, such as in the Bahamas at the well known, ‘Tiger Beach.'


*You can see here the major stripe distinctions between the juvenile pup and adult!


Birth

Female tiger sharks can give birth to up to 80 pups at a time. As young pups, they are in danger of becoming prey to older tiger sharks and other sharks. For this reason, pups will live in small estuaries and bays while adults inhabit open water and coral reefs.

Hunting

Tiger sharks are considered the ‘garbage cans of the sea.’ They are known to be excellent scavengers, and have been found to have license plates and other random junk in their stomachs. You may be wondering how they can survive with junk in their stomach, well... they have the incredible ability to turn their stomachs inside out to get rid of garbage. Their sharp serrated jaws are designed for crushing sea turtle shells and clams. 

These sharks hunt alone, primarily at night, and they have no known predators. One FIN fact about tiger sharks is that in the movie Jaws, the first shark that the out-of-town fisherman catch is a tiger shark, and when the shark scientist Hooper cuts it open, a license plate falls out. This scene was supposedly based off of well-known shark fisherman Frank Mundus and the 1918 shark attacks in the Jersey Shore.

Threats

Tiger Sharks are often victims of excessive shark-finning. Fishermen also remove their flesh to be eaten. Their livers contain very high levels of vitamin A, which can be processed into vitamin oil. It is extremely important to protect this species because they have low-repopulation rates and their population is declining. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, they are considered near-threatened at this point.

Throughout my years of watching Shark Week, I have enjoyed watching one specific tiger shark, also named Emma, who lives in the waters at Tiger Beach. She is the most-photographed Tiger Shark on the planet! The 14-ft long female has taken quite a liking to Jim Abernathy, who is a well-known photographer, cinematographer, and author. He has brought countless other nature photographers to meet Emma to show them how important it is to protect not only her species, but other shark species, too. Here is a picture of them swimming together. Remember that while some sharks can become aggressive, they are mostly peaceful animals who are just doing what they've been created to do, in the places they live, where we occasionally visit.


Sources:

National Geographic, Government of Bermuda (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), OCEANA


Photos:

1- Andy Casagrande

2- Andre Seale

3- Jeff Yonover

4- Jim Abernathy




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