General Science

Sharks vs. Tigers: Apex Predator Showdown

posted: 07/27/17
by: Jason Ginsburg

As you may have heard, our friends at Discovery are in the middle of Shark Week. Meanwhile, our friends at Animal Planet are preparing for Global Tiger Day. In celebration of both events, we thought we'd compare these two apex predators to see which one comes out on top.


The largest tiger subspecies is the Siberian tiger. Males can grow to 11 feet in length (with a three-foot tail) and weigh up to 700 pounds. It's the biggest cat on Earth. But aquatic creatures can grow much larger and heavier. The largest shark species, the whale shark, can grow up to 33 feet, with a weight of an astonishing 41,000 pounds. It's not just the largest shark; it's the largest fish in the ocean. Even several species down the list, the great white shark, beats the Siberian tiger with a length of at least 15 feet and a weight of more than two tons.
Winner: Sharks


The fastest a tiger can run -- in short bursts -- is about 40 mph. While that may be enough to outpace a great white shark (as Michael Phelps recently showed us), once again, water provides an advantage. Its buoyancy, and a streamlined body, allow a shortfin mako shark to swim up to 60 mph. Both predators move much faster than a human can run or swim.
Winner: Sharks


You bite into a steak with a force of about 200 pounds per square inch. Tigers have a bite force of about 1,000 psi. That's been directly measured. It seems no one has had the luck, opportunity, or bravery to test a great white shark's bite, but computer models based on skulls and jawbones estimate it to be 3,600 psi. No matter what, a bite from either creature would be bad news for your bones and organs.
Winner: Sharks


This is hard to measure objectively, but we had to throw a bone (as it were) to the tigers. While baby sharks are definitely cute, it's hard to compete with the immense adorableness of tiger cubs.
Winner: Tigers


Another category that's open to debate. A few facts: Tigers have brains that are 16% larger than lions, leopards, or jaguars, and brain size is often linked to intelligence. They have an impressive range of vocalizations, including roars, purrs, grunts, moans, and coughs, along with non-verbal communication like posture and smell. On the other hand, sharks have been shown to learn, remember, and even teach each other. Some species work together to encircle their prey. Both tigers and sharks have complex social systems that we're only beginning to understand.
Winner: Tie


From 1970 to 2005, 99% of hammerhead, bull, and dusky sharks along the East Coast disappeared. Every year, an estimated
73 million sharks of all species are killed, mostly by fishing. Still, the ocean is vast, and even a (unnecessarily) feared predator like the great white is only listed as "Vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Tigers are in far worse shape, with less than 4,000 believed to still exist in the wild. The IUCN lists them as "Endangered," meaning the entire species faces "a high risk of extinction in the future." Three sub-species went extinct in the 20th century.

To help their fight we've partnered with Oceana to raise $1 million for shark conservation and we've teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund and others for Project C.A.T, to conserve acres for tigers and double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022.

So who wins in the showdown between tigers and sharks? If we take action, they both will, and these magnificent creatures will remain on the planet with us for generations to come.

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