Researchers Surprised by What Tiger Shark Threw Up

Sighting of shark regurgitating a dead echidna is believed to be a first
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2024 8:44 AM CDT
Tiger Shark Throws Up a Spiky Meal
Echidnas can grow to be around 20 inches long.   (Getty Images/Ken Griffiths)

Tiger sharks aren't known for being fussy eaters but researcher Nicolas Lubitz and his team were still surprised by what one of them regurgitated. Lubitz says the shark vomited a dead echidna, a spiky, land-dwelling relative of the platypus, CNN reports. "We were quite shocked at what we saw. We really didn't know what was going on," Lubitz says in a James Cook University news release. "When it spat it out, I looked at it and remarked, 'What the hell is that?'" The sighting is believed to be the first of its kind.

The shark had been caught for tagging off the coast of Orpheus Island in Queensland, Australia. The luckless echidna was fully intact, Lubitz says, suggesting it was a recent meal. Lubitz says it's very rare for tiger sharks to throw up their food but it can happen when they're stressed. "In this case, I think the echidna must have just felt a bit funny in its throat," Lubitz says. He says the shark probably caught the echidna while it was swimming in shallow waters or between islands. The 10-foot shark, apparently unharmed, was fitted with an acoustic tracker and released.

Tiger sharks "have been documented swallowing seabirds, (tires), license plates, and even a small TV screen," according to the university's news release. "It's known that tiger sharks will eat anything," Lubitz says. "They're just a scavenger. I've seen videos of them eating a rock for no reason." The team was taking part in a three-year project to gather data by fitting marine life, including several species of sharks, with trackers, the BBC reports. (More sharks stories.)

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