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Tiger shark found on Aussie beach with another shark in its mouth

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Mystery still surrounds the tiger shark. Fortunately, this one doesn't appear to have eaten anything more interesting that the smaller shark protruding from its mouth.

But tiger sharks, the garbage guts of the ocean, have been found with handbags, rolls of linoleum, and even bits of people in their insides.

Marine biologist Julian Pepperell is applying for a federal government grant to tag tiger sharks, so their progress through the oceans can be tracked by researchers.

"Their movements are what we're really interested in," Julian explains.

"They appear off New South Wales in summer, for example, and then they completely disappear in winter.

"They're also a common resident up off northern Queensland, although when I say 'resident', they also disappear in winter.

Dr Pepperell says little is known about the size of Australia's tiger shark population, or where they go when they leave Australian waters.

The tiger is a relatively widespread shark found in the waters of Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, New Guinea and other Pacific islands.

But researchers don't know if each area has its own population of sharks, or whether the same fish go a grand tour of the Pacific every year.

"Do they move freely between those locations, or not?" Dr Pepperell asks.

"Are we talking about fairly small populations, in which case should we be concerned over mortalities caused by protective beach meshing or drumline captures?"

Tiger sharks are probably the closest thing to the garbage disposal units of the ocean.

For the layman, though, perhaps the first question is - what about the smaller shark in this beast's mouth?

Is there no honour in the ocean?

"Tiger sharks are probably the closest thing to the garbage disposal units of the ocean," Julian explains, "They eat just about anything.

"In fact they really do like eating smaller sharks and stingrays.

"They're the only shark that eats turtles, because their teeth can actually saw through the carapace.

Dr Pepperell says tiger sharks are also known to ingest all manner of things found floating in the coean - including whole rolls of linoleum, nuts, bolts and copper wire.

whole rolls of linoleum, nuts, bolts, copper wire... a human arm, complete with tattoo...

If they find something not to their taste, like many other sharks they can regurgitate foreign items - but there doesn't seem to be much a tiger shark can't stomach.

"There was a classic description from many years ago from Port Jackson in Sydney of a shark that had in its stomach a woman's handbag, in which was a comb, a pencil, a powderpuff and a wristwatch which was still going."

But how long would something like that stay in the shark's stomach, before it was either destroyed by digestive acids or expelled?

Dr Pepperell cites an example of a tiger shark kept in Sydney's Taronga Park Zoo in the 1930s:

"It had only been fed on horsemeat during its one month in captivity, but after it died and was disected, in its stomach were two intact dolphin fish [not dolphins, a type of fish also known as Mahi Mahi] which had gone undigested.

In another chilling example from the same era, a shark kept in captivity for several months one day regurgitated a human arm, complete with tattoo.

The fishermen who landed this recent example off Tannum Beach may have got off very lightly.

You can also find out more about this particular tiger shark encounter, and how it came to be caught off Tannum Beach.


Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

15 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

Your shark story is really cool but what's the weirdest thing they found in a shark tummy?
   comment# 1   - Dulcie Martel · Chateh Alberta · Jan 10, 2007 @ 9:56am

Doesn't this shark know that sharks are endangered? How dare it eat another shark, I keep reading only Humans kill sharks, is this a true story?
   comment# 2   - Robert Rolin · Onalaska Texas · Jun 16, 2007 @ 9:12am

lol robert shraks are cannibalistic they eat smaller sharks its well known its just the food cycle bigger the better
   comment# 3   - clayton · perth australia · Jun 11, 2008 @ 7:09pm

That was a sarcastic joke Clayton but thanks for the explanation.
   comment# 4   - Robert Rolin · Onalaska texas · Jun 22, 2008 @ 6:00pm

I think that tiger sharks are cool, and thank you to this website for giving me this info
   comment# 5   - Bailey · Edmonton · May 13, 2009 @ 10:10am

tiger sharks r crazy wonderwhat would win between a tiger shark and a small great white
   comment# 6   - gary · belfast uk · Aug 26, 2010 @ 5:01am

theres got 2 be sumthing bigger that eats the tiger shark do great whites eat them. we only get baskin sharks in ulster there was only 1 great white caught 100 miles of are coast a few months ago ill not be letting my son or dog go swimming any time soon
   comment# 7   - gary · belfast uk · Aug 28, 2010 @ 5:45am

this website is the ticket by the robert rolin texas rulz
   comment# 8   - gary · belfast uk · Aug 28, 2010 @ 6:23am

i agree wit gary theres got 2 b sumthing that eats them maybe killer whales??
   comment# 9   - mark · ny usa · Mar 3, 2011 @ 11:07am

i think that killer whales wouldnt have a chance, did it ever occur to you that maybe it just the king of the food chain !! And if something waz s to eat it it have to be bigger and stronger than it,, not a killer whales. :-)
   comment# 10   - sierra winchester · stearns, United States · Mar 7, 2011 @ 9:48am

thanks for telling me all theese facts
   comment# 11   - rebbacca jones · london · Apr 30, 2011 @ 3:49am

has any1 got any info of the new shark species discovered in the far east?
   comment# 12   - gary · belfast uk · Jul 8, 2011 @ 9:05am

well theres one encounter were a killer whale killed a great white!
   comment# 13   - gary · belfast uk · Jul 8, 2011 @ 9:11am

dis is cool stuff didnt no sharks eat smaller sharks
   comment# 14   - john spears · austin texas usa · Jul 8, 2011 @ 12:37pm

you guys are stuepid.
   comment# 15   - Emily · Kansis city · Feb 4, 2012 @ 1:39pm
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