What do Tiger Sharks Eat? Their Diets Explained

Written by Dana Mayor
Updated: September 26, 2022
Image Credit Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock.com
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What Do Tiger Sharks Eat
Tiger sharks are voracious predators that eat everything from squid, to turtles, to stingrays

A-Z-Animals.com

Key Points

  • Tiger sharks eat sea snakes, sea turtles, whales, seals, and sea birds.
  • An examination of their stomachs’ contents revealed they had consumed antelopes, penguins, and dolphins.
  • They come right behind the great white in terms of aggressiveness towards humans.

Tiger sharks are the second largest predatory shark, and the fourth largest shark in the ocean. Named after the pattern on the side of their bodies, which fades as they age, tiger sharks will eat just about anything they can sink their teeth into.

Their diet is varied, including fish, rays, smaller sharks, marine mammals, and birds that fly too close to the ocean’s surface. They’re also notably the only shark that eats sea turtles. Let’s dive deeper into what tiger sharks eat and whether they’re dangerous to humans!

What do Tiger Sharks eat?

Tiger Shark open mouth
A close up of a tiger shark’s mouth

Matt9122/Shutterstock.com

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Tiger sharks are predators first and foremost, and they eat a carnivorous diet that can include:

  • Various fish
  • Sting rays
  • Smaller sharks (including their own offspring)
  • Sea snakes
  • Sea turtles
  • Seals
  • Sea birds
  • Squid
  • Weak or deceased whales

They may also eat dead animals, and trash dumped into the ocean is often found in their stomachs as well. Like a new puppy, they eat what’s in their reach. A 2017 study looked at the content of tiger shark stomachs and found small antelopes, humpback dolphins, sea birds, African penguins, humpback whale remains, and porcupine fish.

They study found that:

  • 55% of tiger shark families contained other sharks, rays, or skates
  • 51% contained ray-finned fish
  • 40% contained mammals
  • 27% contained birds
  • 13% contained crustaceans
  • 6% contained reptiles

As you can see, tiger sharks eat an extremely varied diet and are extremely opportunistic!

Some tiger sharks are found to eat a more specialized diet, particularly where it’s easy to do so. For instance, the ocean near Hawaii is home to many green turtles and Hawaiian monk seals—and tiger sharks in the area take advantage of this.

However, they can’t typically afford to be picky. If tiger sharks were to eat a less diverse diet, they might go too long between meals. This would be a detriment to the species’ survival.

Are Tiger Sharks Dangerous to Humans?

What do tiger sharks eat - a tiger shark swimming

HQuality/Shutterstock.com

Tiger sharks are sometimes called “man eater sharks.” They are aggressive, wild animals. The combination of being at the top of the food chain and willing to eat anything doesn’t do people in the ocean any favors, either.

Tiger sharks are the second most aggressive sharks to humans after the Great White. However, this may make them sound like more of a threat than they are. Since 1958 there have been 131 attacks on humans and 34 fatalities. This makes them significantly less deadly than an animal like a cow.

In truth, sharks swim around people often—and typically they just ignore us!

You’re far more likely to be bitten by a dog than a shark, though it is fair to say that dog bites typically hurt a lot less.

How do Tiger Sharks Hunt?

What do tiger sharks eat - feeding a tiger shark
Feeding a tiger shark in the ocean

Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock.com

Tiger sharks swim closer to the shore at night, where they find their prey. They sneak up on prey using slow movements and the ability to camouflage in dark waters, then attack with great speed.

They may circle their prey or examine it before eating, and are said to be very confident about their hunting prowess!

Their serrated teeth and strong jaws allow them to clamp down hard. They eat smaller prey whole, but may eat larger animals in bites.

What do Baby Tiger Sharks Eat?

Baby tiger sharks eat coastal fish, jellyfish, and mollusks. Young tiger sharks have also been found to be fond of avian fare and are known to wait for songbirds migrating close to the coast of the gulf of Mexico ready to catch any which run into trouble.

They are often vulnerable to predators themselves and may even be considered a tasty snack by older relatives.

Up Next…

Keep reading these posts for more incredible information about key animal facts.

  • What Do Greenland Sharks Eat? The clean up crew of the ocean and a surprising Icelandic delicacy, Greenland sharks are extremely fond of decaying food. Find out what they are likely to settle down to at dinner time out at sea.
  • What Do Bull Sharks Eat? These marine predators love to help themselves to prey which surrounds them. Discover what they’re likely to go after.

What do tiger sharks eat - feeding a tiger shark

Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

I love good books and the occasional cartoon. I am also endlessly intrigued with the beauty of nature and find hummingbirds, puppies, and marine wildlife to be the most magical creatures of all.

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