If there is another shark that rivals the great white for notoriety, it is almost certainly the great white shark.
While not as immediately iconic as the great white nor as instantly recognizable, the tiger shark is a powerful predator and is, after the great white, responsible for more attacks on people than any other kind of shark.
The similarities between the two sharks – both large macro predatory fish, both relatively dangerous, and both found worldwide – inevitably invite comparisons.
Today, we examine the similarities and differences between a tiger shark vs great white shark, and answer an important question – who would win in a fight?
Tiger Shark vs Great White Size: Which Is Bigger?
The great white shark is the world’s largest macro predatory fish, so this question is fairly easily answered. That said, let’s take a look at the numbers on these two massive predators anyway.
Great whites are sexually dimorphic, with females being larger than males. Males reach sizes of 11-13ft (3.4-4m), while females can reach 15-16ft (4.6-4.9m).
As stated, this makes them the largest macro predatory fish in the ocean, beaten out only by whales and basking sharks (who are filter feeders – hence the ‘macro predatory’ qualifier).
”I was fighting the hammerhead shark and he [the tiger shark] came up and swallowed it!”– The Evening Standard: Six-metre tiger shark that ‘swallowed’ a hammerhead whole.
Tiger sharks, meanwhile, are a little smaller – but are still very, very big. They reach sizes of 11-14ft (3-4m), with males rarely being found at sizes over 12ft. They are the second-largest macro predatory fish in the ocean.
However, there are some reports of tiger sharks reaching 5m (16.5ft), with one pregnant tiger caught off the coast of Australia clocking in at an astonishing 5.5m (18ft) long – not that far behind the largest recorded great white, which was 6.1m (20ft) long.
However, we have to give this to the shark that is generally bigger, and that accolade goes to the great white.
Which Is Faster?
Great whites are, for their size, speedy swimmers with a cruising speed of 4-5mph. They’re also capable of amazing bursts of speed, typically saved for their ambush-style hunts. At moments like these, they can achieve speeds of 35mph or so.
The tiger shark, by comparison, is a little slower both in terms of cruising and burst speeds. They cruise at around 2-3mph, and their burst speed is considerably slower than that of the great white, with a top speed of about 20mph.
It’s very easy indeed, then, to declare the great white shark the victor in any race between these two apex predators.
Where Do They Live?
Great white sharks are a surprisingly ubiquitous predator and can be found throughout much of the waters across the world.
They reach as far north as New England in the Americas and Portugal in Europe and are found off the southern coasts of every continent in the world, excluding Antarctica. Though they prefer coastal waters, they can be found far out to sea when they’re migrating.
Tiger sharks, on the other and, prefer warmer waters and consequently have a much smaller range that’s closer to the equator.
In the Americas, they can be found in California and Florida but don’t get as far north as great whites. They are almost never found in European waters, and, while found on the West African coastline, are absent from the continent’s coast further south.
In Asia and Oceania, tiger sharks are present throughout all of Southeast Asia, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, and all of the Australian coastline except the south. They can also be found throughout much of the waters off New Zealand.
In terms of range, then, the great white shark is easily the more adaptable and widespread shark, able to survive in all the waters tigers can, along with much cooler waters.
Which Shark Is More Aggressive?
Going simply off the numbers, the great white is the more aggressive shark simply because it’s responsible for far more attacks on human beings.
With 333 recorded attacks on human beings, 52 of which were fatal, the great white has perpetrated a relatively high number of attacks on human beings.
Note, however, that this number is relative to other shark species; the numbers are still extremely low considering how often human beings come into close contact with great whites.
In comparison, tiger sharks have been responsible for 103 attacks on human beings, 39 of which were fatal.
Though this is roughly only a third of the attacks great whites have perpetrated, the ratio of attacks to fatalities is much higher; around 23% of great white attacks are fatal, whereas 37% of tiger sharks end in death.
Tiger sharks, too, have a reputation for eating absolutely anything and will cheerfully consume a human being if the opportunity is there.
Despite the higher volume of great white shark attacks then, we can conclude that tiger sharks are more aggressive.
Who Would Win In A Fight?
Generally, the great white would come out the victor in any contest between these two ocean leviathans; it’s larger and faster, and that’s typically all it takes in a one-on-one confrontation.
However, given the fact that some tiger sharks can rival great whites in size, it might not be so straightforward.
A large female tiger would probably easily best a male great white, while a confrontation between two large females would be a close-run thing.
The last factor in the equation of any fight between a tiger and a great white is bite force. A tiger has a bite force of about 6000 newtons. Great whites, meanwhile, have a bite force of 18,000 newtons – three times that of a tiger.
And while a tiger’s teeth are more suited for biting through hard substances, that doesn’t matter in a fight with a great white, where sheer bite force rules the day. Any bites the white landed would, in short, do a lot of damage to the smaller shark.
In any fight outside of a mismatch, then, the great white is likely to take the day.
It’s a Close Call Between a Tiger Shark vs Great White Shark, But The Great White Wins!
Though these two sharks are extremely closely matched, the fact is that in terms of size, speed, distribution, and bite force, the great white edges out its closest competitor quite easily.
Tigers can console themselves with the fact that, unlike the great white, their highly-adapted teeth are perfect for chewing through the garbage we routinely toss into the ocean.
Want to find out everything you need to know about great white sharks in one handy article? Check out our ultimate guide to great white shark!
Still hungry for more? We don’t blame you! To discover more articles like this one covering the tiger shark vs great white shark, explore our shark versus shark section for more!