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Tiger shark shocks Australian scientists by vomiting echidna (spiny anteater)


A tiger shark in mid water
Tiger sharks are notorious for eating almost anything, earning them the nickname ‘dustbins of the sea.’

Australian researchers were stunned when a three-metre tiger shark regurgitated an entire echidna, complete with spines. This extraordinary event occurred in May 2022 while scientists from James Cook University (JCU) were tagging sharks near Queensland’s Orpheus Island, marking what they believe to be a world-first observation.


Nicolas Lubitz, a former JCU PhD student, described his amazement: “When the shark spat it out, I was taken aback and thought, ‘What on earth is that?’ We were completely taken aback. None of us had any clue what was happening,” he said. 


Tiger sharks are notorious for eating almost anything, earning them the nickname ‘dustbins of the sea.’ They have even been found with tyres and number plates in their stomachs. “I’ve seen footage of them eating rocks for no apparent reason,” Lubitz added.




a spiny ant eater
Echidnas, native to Australia, are egg-laying mammals that resemble hedgehogs with long snouts. Photo by Enguerrand Blanchy on Unsplash

Yet, witnessing a tiger shark vomit an intact echidna, spines and all, was entirely unprecedented. Echidnas, native to Australia, are egg-laying mammals that resemble hedgehogs with long snouts.


The echidna seemed fresh, suggesting it was a recent meal. It's probably that the shark might have caught the echidna while it was swimming in shallow waters or between islands. Interestingly, echidnas can swim by paddling with their feet and using their long snouts as snorkels.


Although sharks rarely vomit, it can happen, particularly under stress, perhaps the echidna might have caused some irritation in the shark's throat in this particular instance.


The tiger shark appeared unharmed by its unusual meal, and the researchers successfully tagged it with an acoustic device to track its movements. Given that tiger sharks are critically endangered, understanding their behaviour is essential for their conservation.


There are many ways you can help protect all sharks, including tiger sharks. Consider becoming a member of Shark Guardian or donating to our worthy cause.







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