Tigers have many striking qualities, from their size to their coloring. As land mammals, they may seem distant from a fish living in the ocean.
So why do tiger sharks share their name with them?
Tiger sharks have stripes similar to an actual tiger. They also sometimes have markings closer to spots than stripes. It’s thought that these markings are camouflage for the shark, just as they are for the tiger. They are also not the only sharks to have stripes or spots.
Tiger Sharks Have Spots, Then Stripes
These sharks have gray bodies with vertical bars or spots of a darker gray on their flanks. Their underside is a paler color or even full white.
Tigers are land mammals known for their distinctive striping. But a tiger’s coloring is black stripes on orange or white fur.
Even with the color difference, there’s still a resemblance between the cat and the shark.
The stripes on a tiger shark are most prominent on juveniles, but they’re only true stripes for a small window.
First, the markings appear as blotches or spots on their backs (the dorsal surface). These markings fuse together as they age into the more recognizable tiger-strip pattern.
Then, as the sharks enter further into adulthood, the stripes fade. Sometimes the markings almost disappear.
Other Similarities To Tigers
Tigers don’t go out of their way to attack humans, but they can still be deadly.
Tiger sharks are more like tigers than just having the same markings. They are also among the largest types of their respective animal group.
Tiger sharks average between 10-14 feet (3-5 meters) and 850-1,400 pounds (386-635 kilograms).
Tiger sharks also don’t target humans as part of their normal diet, but they can and do attack with some frequency. Only the white shark has a higher number of attacks on humans reported.
Other Physical Attributes Of Tiger Sharks
Both the tiger-like markings and their size set tiger sharks apart from many other sharks. But they’re bodies are distinctive in other ways as well.
Tiger sharks have large heads and a very blunt snout. Their bodies taper into a thinner shape towards their backends.
Tiger sharks also have large teeth in proportion to their bodies, and each tooth has a serrated edge. This allows them to use a saw-like motion to take large bites out of prey much larger than themselves.
As with most sharks, these teeth replenish themselves for the tiger shark’s whole life.
Other Striped And Spotted Sharks
Tiger sharks are not the only shark species with distinctive stripes and spots. There’s even another shark species that shares its name with a big cat: the leopard shark.
Like with tiger sharks, the coloring and markings of a leopard shark change as they age. When they’re juveniles, they’re black and have white stripes. They’re even called zebra sharks due to these markings.
Once they get older, the lines become spots – opposite from the tiger shark’s markings.
There’s also the striped or pyjama catshark. These nocturnal sharks are gray and have seven darker stripes that run from their head to their tail.
Unlike tiger sharks, striped catsharks are born with their stripes. The juvenile catsharks have a close resemblance to their adult counterparts.
Whale sharks can either be gray, blue, or brown on their dorsal surface and a white stomach.
They have a distinct pattern of white spots that lie between pale stripes. These stripes run both in both vertical and horizontal directions along a whale shark’s back.
The true purpose of this pattern is unknown, but there are theories. Some experts believe it could be a form of camouflage for the catshark.
It may also be a result of their relationship with another shark species, the carpet shark.
Tigers on land and tiger sharks in the sea have more than a few things in common with each other. Like land tigers, tiger sharks are one of the biggest specimens of their taxological group. They also have high numbers of recorded attacks against humans, just like tigers.
Most notably, however, the tiger shark has stripes just like the big cat does. Both of them use their markings for camouflage. The stripes on a tiger shark do fade with time, however.
Tiger sharks are also not unique in their appearance. There are several other species of shark that have stripes or spots on their skin. Such striking markings are in abundance in the animal kingdom.