Meet the Tiger Shark
10-14 feet long and weighing up to 1,400 pounds, the tiger shark is one of the sea’s large and mighty creatures. The name refers to the dark stripes on their sides and backs, which is one way they can be distinguished from other shark species. However, the stripes typically fade as the animal gets older. These large, slow-moving sharks live all over the world in sub-tropical waters. They are omnivores that have incredible senses—even detecting electricity—making them avid scavengers.
Females develop embryos internally, which then hatch and incubate inside the mother before being born live. Females can give birth to up to 80 pups at a time.
Protecting the Tiger Shark
Unfortunately, tiger sharks are regularly hunted—mainly for their fins, but also for their liver oil. Since they have a low reproduction rate, overfishing is a major threat to tiger shark populations. Juveniles are often caught unintentionally as bycatch, which is detrimental to the next generation. The decreasing population of tiger sharks has led the IUCN to list the species as near threatened.
In order to best protect tiger sharks, The Nature Conservancy is trying to learn more about this mysterious animal. To do this, TNC scientists are using data from two satellite-tagged sharks to better understand the extent of their migration. These data will feed into a larger analysis of marine and avian migration across the Gulf of Mexico. This will provide the first tagging data on tiger sharks in the region.
The tags will also reveal the different habitats that tiger sharks use in this particular portion of the Gulf. Initial data from other studies suggest that the west Florida shelf might act as a nursery area for juvenile tiger sharks.