My friend the Tiger Shark

Hello again. Sorry to be absent from posting at DSN lately, but I was all wrapped up in a diving expedition to Saba Bank in the Netherlands Antilles. You’ll hear more about it as we assemble the material and results, but first thing’s first. Let’s get to the good stuff!

This here 8′ tiger shark below circled me and Dr. Juan Armando Sanchez twice as we collected gorgonians in 25m of water over a flat rubble landscape on the Saba Bank interior last week.

tiger_shark_saba_sm.jpg


We didn’t get really nervous until the animal turned to approach us. Juan was fearless enough to snap off 3 or 4 great shots with his Sony Powershot camera, and he even captured a video as the shark turned and slowly drifted towards us to within 10 feet of our bubbling regulators. The video is here in my files somewhere, or perhaps on Facebook. I’ll try to dig it up for you.

In 25 years of diving, this photo marks my first ever close encounter with any natural human assailant larger than a bottlenose dolphin. (Yes, dolphins attack people). The slow stealthy circling behavior of the tiger shark was menacing, but we were too awestruck by the beauty of the animal (or too dumb) to be frightened. Then it turned to face us, hovering motionless, but drifting closely towards us. After a long breathless moment, the shark shook its fins in an irritated shiver and took off into the blue. That part was scary. Juan and I nervously glanced around for 40 more minutes, squinting into the water surrounding us as we continued to collect samples for the Saba Conservation Foundation.

There was some debate whether this was a tiger shark or bull shark, but the general consensus is for the former. Please weigh in if you have any thoughts on that, shark fans.

Peter Etnoyer (397 Posts)

PhD candidate at Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi and doctoral fellow Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.


3 Replies to “My friend the Tiger Shark”

  1. I would agree tiger shark since aren’t bull sharks a bit more blunt-snouted and more roundish?, filled out?

    Anyway. Very neat and hair raising to experience.:D

  2. Bulls have a more sickle-shaped pectoral fin, don’t they? This looks more like the tiger’s straighter fin. A beautiful animal, in any case.

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