The tiger shark is a macropredator, or a predator which is considerably larger in size than its prey and has special adaptations for hunting and killing. The shark lives in warm climates throughout the world’s oceans. The largest specimens are known to exceed 18 feet in length (5.5 m) and weigh up to 2 tons (2,000 kg). Its large head, blunt nose and distinctive tiger-like stripes are its most distinguishing features, although the latter will fade as the animal ages.
The tiger shark is a generalist, which means it can thrive in a wide variety of environments because it can easily adapt to changing conditions and make use of different resources, Its diverse diet consists of fish, birds, marine mammals and even other sharks. Its serrated teeth and powerful jaws also enable it to crush the shells of sea turtles.
Although a skilled predator, the tiger shark is not above scavenging for a meal when the opportunity presents itself. In fact, the shark’s appetite and practice of swallowing items whole often results in it consuming marine debris, with everything from license plates to rubber tires being found in the stomachs of some specimens. Its non-discriminating appetite has also earned the tiger shark the reputation as a “man-eater.” It is second only to the great white shark for known attacks on humans, although the risk of being injured by any shark is incredibly small. In fact, people are much more likely to be injured in household accidents than by any kind of shark.
The tiger shark is wide ranging and can be found in tropical and subtropical waters throughout the world. It is particularly common in the western end of the Pacific Ocean near islands and reefs. The shark can also be found in the Caribbean Sea, Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean along the coasts of Africa and South America. The shark is common around coral reefs and has been known to travel widely in search of prey, including into nearshore waters as shallow as 10 feet (3 m).
Like many shark species, the tiger shark reproduces and matures slowly. These factors can lead to a sharp decline in a shark’s population if not properly managed. Due to general overharvesting by fishing in much of its range, the tiger shark currently has a near-threatened status.