Aquarium sand tiger shark stuns handlers, tries to swallow another shark

aquarium sand tiger shark tries to ingest its tank mate
Aquarium sand tiger shark tries to ingest its tank mate; photo courtesy Aqua World

It might not have been as bizarre as a scene that played out last summer, when a 3-foot shark swallowed a bait cast by Delaware researchers only to be quickly attacked by a much larger sand tiger shark. The story and “turducken-of-the-sea” photo, which showed the smaller shark inside the tooth-strewn jaws of the larger predator, went viral.

But a captive sand tiger shark has surprised researchers again, this time at a marine park in Japan. They were stunned to discover that the 9-foot predator was trying to devour a 3-foot whitetip reef shark.

The smaller shark was protruding from the massive jaws of the sand tiger shark in the Sea of Sharks exhibit at Aqua World in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Aquarium sand tiger shark with whitetip reef shark in its jaws
Aquarium sand tiger shark with whitetip reef shark in its jaws; photo courtesy Aqua World

Typically at aquariums, the display animals are fed so regularly that they do not try eating one another. Also, sand tiger sharks, despite their fearsome appearance, generally do well in captivity and are fairly docile.

But as reported in Japanese on an aquarium blog and in English by, the sand tiger shark had been refusing to eat, which concerned researchers.

It apparently chose this day, in late April, to regain its appetite.

However, despite so many razor-sharp teeth, the sand tiger could not bite through the tough exterior of the whitetip, so it tried to swallow the smaller shark whole.

That didn’t work either, so the sand tiger spit out the whitetip, which was plucked from the tank to prevent another attempt by the sand tiger to complete its meal. Sadly, the smaller shark did not survive the 40-minute ordeal.

A spokesperson for Aqua World was quoted as saying, “In light of this event, we will be further increasing the effort we make when judging which sharks to place in the same tanks, taking into account their relative size and possible hostilities.”

Presumably, the staff has since found something suitable for the sand tiger shark to eat.

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