tiger shark

tiger shark facts

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The tiger shark, also known as the leopard shark, man-eating shark, and spot shark, is a warm saltwater fish that lives around the world.

This is the only member of the genus Galeocerdo. It is known for the vertical dark stripes on its back and the fact that it eats a variety of prey. Humans hunt it for its fins, cartilage and oil.

5 Incredible Tiger Shark Facts

• Multiple litters: Females can produce between 10 and 82 pups in one litter. Not surprisingly, she only has one litter every three years.
• Fast Hunters: Although tiger sharks are slow moving fish that spend most of their time in the water, they use rapid bursts of speed to catch their prey. They can swim at about 20 mph.
• Few natural enemies: Orcas and humans are their only natural enemies. They sometimes end up in the nets of commercial fishermen, either intentionally or accidentally.
Trashfish: Tiger sharks are sometimes called trashfish because of the many items they swallow in addition to their prey. Plastics, empty cans and license plates are just some of the items found in the tiger shark's stomach.
Powerful Teeth: The teeth of a tiger shark are so powerful that they can bite through a turtle's shell or a clam.

Want to learn more about tiger sharks? Check out "10 Amazing Tiger Shark Facts!"

taxonomic name

tiger shark
The tiger shark's scientific name is Galeocerdo cuvier .

©Michael Rothschild/Shutterstock.com

The tiger shark's scientific name is Galeocerdo cuvier . Galeocerdo cuvier comes from the Greek words Galeus (shark) and cerdo (fox). This has to do with the sneaky way it approaches its prey. It is also known as the man-eater, leopard and spotted shark. It belongs to the true shark family which includes 60 species. Its class is Chondrichthyes.

It belongs to the order Eucharidae along with 270 other species of sharks, including blacktip reef sharks, bull sharks and gray reef sharks, among others. However, this species is the only member of the genus Galeocerdo.


Favorite and Most Popular Animal: Sharks
A tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) swims across the reef. Sharks have roamed the oceans for more than 400 million years.

© kaschibo/Shutterstock.com

There are 60 species of sharks belonging to the same family (True sharks), also known as requiem sharks. There are 12 genera in this family. Some notable members of the Requiem family include:

• Blacktip Reef Shark: This warm water shark is easily identified by the black tip on its dorsal and other fins. This shark swims in shallow water and is curious, but not aggressive when encountering humans.
• Bull Shark: This shark lives in warm coastal waters and rivers. They eat many of the same prey as tiger sharks, but hunt both during the day and at night.
Gray reef sharks: Blunt-nosed like tiger sharks, these live in the warm waters that congregate around coral reefs in search of prey. The shark is about 6 feet long and weighs about 70 pounds, making it much smaller than a tiger shark.

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Here is the full list of tiger sharks:

  • Galeocerdo
  • requiem shark
  • sand tiger shark
  • ground shark
  • roundworms
  • White Shark
  • Flounder

evolution and origin

The origin of the current tiger shark was previously thought to have occurred about 5.3 million years ago. Still, the team was able to find many fossilized shark teeth from 13.8 million years ago, proving they existed much earlier than previously thought.

Most scientists believe that sharks first appeared 400 million years ago. 200 million years earlier than dinosaurs! They are said to have originated from a small leaf-shaped fish without eyes, fins, or bones. Eventually, these fish evolved into the two major families of fish that exist today.

A male and female specimen of the Galeocerdo cuvier tiger shark was accidentally caught while fishing for swordfish in the southern Mediterranean. The discovery leaves no doubt that tiger sharks were found in Mediterranean waters at some point in their evolution.


The tiger shark is a smooth gray-skinned fish with a white belly and dark gray or black vertical stripes on its back. Its nose is round and broad. The teeth curve inward of the mouth. Additionally, each of its teeth has jagged edges. Their teeth are designed to help them break through shells and other hard coverings of their prey.

These sharks range in length from 10 to 14 feet. They range in weight from 850 to 1,400 pounds. The longest tiger shark is 24.6 feet long and the heaviest weighs 1,780 pounds.

Its gray color helps it blend into murky water. Not surprisingly, this also helps tiger sharks stalk prey swimming in the same area.

tiger shark
One of the most notable features is the stripes on the back. As it ages, its stripes begin to fade.

© 3DMI/Shutterstock.com

tiger shark stripes

One of the most notable features is the stripes on the back. As it ages, its stripes begin to fade.

Distribution, Population and Habitat

Tiger sharks live in tropical waters in many parts of the world. They are saltwater fish found around the central Pacific islands, the Gulf of Mexico in North America, and the Caribbean. They have been found off the coasts of South America, China, Australia, Indonesia, Africa and India. Although this shark spends its time swimming near the surface, it usually swims at depths around 460 feet.

These sharks migrate with the seasons. They move from temperate to tropical waters when the weather cools. Or, when warmer weather returns, they migrate from tropical to temperate habitats.

Data on this population of organisms are lacking. However, the official conservation status is Near Threatened. Their numbers are declining due to poaching. They are hunted for the oil in their fins, skin and liver. They are often caught by commercial fishing nets.

predator and prey

what tiger sharks eat
Tiger sharks eat stingrays, turtles, fish and squid.

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Killer whales and humans are natural enemies of adult tiger sharks. Killer whales are larger in size and weight than tiger sharks, which allows them to overwhelm these fish. Humans catch juvenile and adult tiger sharks in commercial fishing nets and kill them for their skin, liver oil and cartilage.
Baby tiger sharks are sometimes only 20 inches long at birth. This makes them easy prey for larger sharks and seals.

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Tiger sharks have a long list of prey. Some of the things these sharks prey on include squid, turtles, dolphins, smaller sharks, clams, rays and seabirds. This shark will swallow anything it finds in the ocean, including plastic, license plates and anything that looks tasty! They hunt at night, which means they are harder to spot in murky water.

For a complete analysis of what tiger sharks eat, check out our full "What Do Tiger Sharks Eat?" Their Diet Explained" article.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) swimming with other fish in an aquarium.
Sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) swimming with other fish in an aquarium.

©Valeri Potapova/Shutterstock.com

The breeding season for this shark runs from March to May in the northern hemisphere, and from November to early January in the southern hemisphere. After a male mates with a female, the baby develops in an egg inside the mother. After a gestation period of 13 to 16 months, females give birth live. She can have anywhere from 10 to 80 babies or pups. Female tiger sharks give birth to a litter of pups every three years.

Shark pups can reach a size of 20 to 30 inches at birth. Each baby immediately leaves its mother to live independently. These sharks reach sexual maturity at about 7 to 10 years of age. Tiger sharks live to be about 15 years old, but they seem to live much longer – the oldest tiger shark ever recorded was 50 years old!

fishing and cooking

Sand Tiger Shark or Gray Nurse Shark or Spotted Saw Shark, Taurus, Infanta, South Africa, Indian Ocean
Sand Tiger Shark or Gray Nurse Shark or Spotted Saw Shark, Taurus, Infanta, South Africa, Indian Ocean

©Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock.com

The shark is sometimes caught in commercial fishing nets by accident and sometimes on purpose. Either way, this shark is usually killed for the oils in its skin, fins, cartilage, and liver. The amount caught by commercial fishing nets is unknown.

This shark is not eaten by many people. Its flesh is said to have a strange taste. Plus, this fish ingests many different edible and non-edible foods. It makes them even less appetizing.

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Tiger Shark FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Where can I find tiger sharks?

Tiger sharks live in the tropical waters of North and South America, Australia, India, China, Indonesia and Africa.

What do tiger sharks eat?

Some prey for tiger sharks include squid, clams, seabirds, rays, turtles and smaller sharks.

Where do tiger sharks live?

Tiger sharks like to swim along coasts, estuaries and harbors. They seek out muddy waters where they can blend in and catch their prey.

How big is a tiger shark?

Tiger sharks are usually 10 to 14 feet long. They range in weight from 850 to 1,400 lbs.

What is the scientific name of the tiger shark?

Their scientific name is Galeocerdo cuvier.

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Are Tiger Sharks Dangerous?

Yes they can. These sharks are curious and can be dangerous when they mistake humans for prey. When these sharks see movement or a reflection, they walk over to investigate, thinking it's something to eat.

Harbors, estuaries and reefs are the habitat of tiger sharks. Many people enjoy diving in these areas, so it's no surprise that tiger sharks and humans occasionally encounter encounters.

To which kingdom do tiger sharks belong?

Tiger sharks belong to the animal kingdom.

What phylum do tiger sharks belong to?

Tiger sharks belong to the phylum Chordate.

Which category do tiger sharks belong to?

Tiger sharks belong to the class Chondrichthyes.

What family do tiger sharks belong to?

Tiger sharks belong to the family of sharks.

What order do tiger sharks belong to?

Tiger sharks belong to the order Eucharidae.

What genus do tiger sharks belong to?

Tiger sharks belong to the genus Galeocerdo.

What type of cover do tiger sharks have?

Tiger sharks are covered with smooth skin.

Who are the tiger shark's natural enemies?

Predators of tiger sharks include humans.

How many babies do tiger sharks have?

The average number of pups for a tiger shark is 35.

Any fun facts about tiger sharks?

The Tiger Shark is the fourth largest shark species in the world!

What is the lifespan of a tiger shark?

Tiger sharks can live 30 to 40 years.

How Fast Are Tiger Sharks?

Tiger sharks can travel at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

Who would win a fight: tiger shark vs great white?

A great white shark would win a fight with a tiger shark.

Great white sharks are too big and powerful for smaller tiger sharks to overcome. Although it is difficult for a tiger shark to ambush a great white, unless it manages to deal a devastating blow to a larger fish, it will prepare itself for a counterattack.

What is the Difference Between Bull Sharks and Tiger Sharks?

The main difference between the bull shark and the tiger shark is that the bull shark is smaller in size, tolerates fresh water and prefers shallow water. Tiger sharks are larger and cannot enter fresh water, usually in deeper water.

Who would win a fight: tiger shark vs crocodile?

Tiger sharks almost always kill crocodiles. The Tigersharks have won 9 of 10.

Tiger sharks always have an advantage over crocodiles in open water. It can swim faster, maneuver better, and breathe underwater. If the fight takes place underwater, the tiger shark almost always wins.

Who would win a fight between a tiger shark and a killer whale?

In a tiger shark vs. killer whale fight, the killer whale is likely to win. Tiger Sharks are large predators and their only real threat is killer whales!

What is the difference between a tiger shark and a sand tiger shark?

The main difference between the tiger shark and the sand tiger shark is their size, appearance and reproductive process

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  1. National Geographic, available here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/t/tiger-shark/
  2. Animal facts for kids, available here: https://kidsanimalsfacts.com/tiger-shark-facts-for-kids/
  3. , available here: https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/species-especes/profiles-profiles/tigershark-requintigre-eng.html