The tiger shark has gotten the nickname “wastebasket of the sea” for a very good reason. It is because they will eat almost anything, ranging from octopi, to blue Sea Turtlewhales, to even pieces of trash (Witzell, 1987). Amazingly, pieces of wood and metal have even been found in the stomachs of these sharks (Witzell, 1987)! But, one of the most common food items to be found in the stomach of tiger sharks are pieces of large sea turtles (Witzell, 1987). These creatures have a large effect on the shark as they have moved in to and adopted the same habitats as turtles (Witzell, 1987). Along with adopting the same habitat, the tiger shark also has evolved the perfect body to ingest these organisms.


Although the tiger shark has a slow and sluggish behavior, they have the capability to have bursts of speed once ready to attack prey (Witzell, 1987). When trying to detect their prey, they will use special vibration detectors on the sides of their bodies, and just like other sharks such as the hammerhead, they will use their pectoral, caudal and dorsal fins for movement (Edmunds, 2008).  What really sets these sharks apart from others can be found within their mouths. First, the mouth of a tiger shark is wider when compared to other sharks (Edmunds, 2008). Second, they have highly evolved teeth. On each toothTiger Shark Teeth primary cusp (the part of the tooth that comes to a point), there are tiny serrations designed to cut in their prey similar to how a saw would (Edmunds, 2008). Just think about that for a second; instead of blade like teeth that will make smooth, straight slits in the flesh, the saw like teeth will creath more damage to flesh by ripping it instead of slicing it. What makes them so lethal is that both the upper and lower jaws of this shark are lined with these types of teeth, giving them the ability to rip almost anything to shreds (Edmunds, 2008). Each tooth also has a very strong cap on each point, making the tooth strong enough to take on tough surfaces without breaking (Witzell, 1987). This is how the tiger shark is able to take on the shell of large sea turtles with ease. Along with the specialized teeth, a tiger shark’s jaw undergoes a rolling motion which further assists in the ability to cut through tough materials (Witzell, 1987).

But what happens to the shell once the shark consumes it? Since the shell itself is indigestible, tiger sharks have developed a method to extract the shells from their stomachs.  They will turn their stomach inside out, forcing the shells back out their mouth (Witzell, 1987). With such specialized teeth, and a slow prey like a sea turtle, it is easy to see why the tiger shark has developed a taste for them.

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December 2013