Tiger sharks are common in coastal waters worldwide in tropical and temperate waters. It has a distinct broadly rounded snout with distinct serrated teeth. Juveniles have distinct spotting pattern and fades into light grey stripes as they mature. Studies show a broad distribution in habitat and tracking studies have shown the ability to swim 30 miles in 24 hours. Tiger sharks are known to come into shallower coastal waters, usually at night. Lengths of 19.6 feet have been documented but overall are rare over 15 feet in length.
Tiger sharks have a highly varied diet; sometimes refer to as the garbage can of the sea. Primarily feed on bony fish, green sea turtles, birds and invertebrates. But other stomach contents have been discovered including carrion and garbage like license plates, feather-coated coop, raincoats and animal antlers to name a few. Tiger sharks give live birth to a litter size of 10-82 pups and an ovulation period of 15-16 months. Tiger sharks are a bold species but despite that, incidents recorded on the Hawaiian Islands remain low averaging 1-2 per year.
Elasmobranch species, which include sharks, rays and skates have the ability to detect electromagnetic signals coming from muscle movements of other organisms. A concentration of pores near the nostrils, around the head and on the underside of the snout called ampullae of Lorenzini detect electrical signal given off by living organisms. When light is scarce in murky water or at depths and vision is impaired, this sixth sense is useful in locating prey. In some species, electroreception is also used as a compass during migration.
Sharks play a crucial role as apex predators in keeping marine ecosystems in balance and removing sick, injured and diseased animals. Therefore they are vital to having a clean and healthy ocean.
In Hawai‘i, sharks were worshipped, cared for and protected as an ‘aumakua, or family deity while others viewed sharks as an important source of food and tools. Those who had the shark as their ‘aumakua wouldn’t hunt or eat shark. They believed their departed ancestors took the form of a shark, therefore would feed and protect the shark and in return the shark would protect the family. Shark stories are very frequent in Hawaiian literature and make a fascinating read. As cultural consultant to the Maui Ocean Center, Kahu Dane Maxwell blesses each shark that enters or leaves the park.
*Due to the constant rotation of animals back to the ocean, the presence of any specific animal cannot be guaranteed.