This month we're showcasing a shark often referred to as the 'Dustbin of the Sea'...

Tiger Sharks are one of the largest sharks in the world. The largest on record was over 5m long and weighed ~635kg. With a powerful torpedo-shaped body, they have a short rounded snout and large eyes.

They belong to one of the largest family of sharks – the requiem sharks. Containing around 60 species, this group is primarily made up of powerful medium-large sized sharks, including the Bull Shark, Oceanic Whitetip, Blue Shark and Silky Shark. These sharks are quick and agile hunters and tend to have voracious appetites.

Tiger Sharks in particular have gained a reputation for their eating habits, earning them their nickname ‘Dustbin of the Sea'.

They’ll eat almost anything! Feeding on venomous sea snakes, clams, crabs, squid, fish, sharks, rays, turtles, seals, dolphins, birds, carrion, and even human rubbish! Bottles, paint cans, leather jackets, license plates, car tyres and Senegalese drums, have also been found in their stomachs.

With such a varied diet, Tiger Sharks play a key role in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems. By preying on the sick and old, they prevent the spread of disease across a broad range of species. Their mere presence also helps protect seagrass – a vital habitat for many marine species.

Tiger Sharks aren’t the only ones with an insatiable appetite. Sea turtles do too! And they'd happily gobble up every blade of sea grass in their sights. But the intimidating presence of a Tiger Shark prevents them from doing so. When a sea turtle sees a patrolling Tiger Shark they’ll quickly move on to another area to graze. This avoidance behaviour prevents them from overgrazing the seagrass in one area.

Tiger sharks are solitary animals, yet they may feed with other sharks if large prey is available. Spending their time in deeper waters during the day, they move closer to shore at night to hunt.

Tiger Sharks will also come together in large groups during mating season. In the Northern Hemisphere mating takes place in spring. In the Southern Hemisphere mating during winter months.

Females will mate once every 3 years. After 12-16 months she’ll then give birth to litters of 26-33 pups. These are born 46-89cm long and are fully independent.

Instead of stripes, pups have lots of grey spots. As they grow older these develop into the stripes that give Tiger Sharks their name. Yet, after a certain age these stripes begin to fade. In fully grown adults they’re barely visible.

It's thought Tiger Sharks live 20-37 years.

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Galeocerdo cuvier

  • FAMILY: Carcharhinidae (Requiem Sharks)

  • MAXIMUM SIZE: 5.5m

  • DIET: Pretty much anything that will fit in their mouth

  • DISTRIBUTION: Tropical to warm temperate waters. Prefers temperatures ~22°C.

  • HABITAT: Coastal and open ocean. Also found in harbours, river estuaries, lagoons and coral atolls. Common below 100m, but can be found from surface waters to 1,000m deep.

  • CONSERVATION STATUS: Near Threatened


Related Links:

► Check out more incredible sharks and rays covered in our Creature Features

► Discover more fin-tastic facts by visiting our Discover Sharks section