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Migration of the Hawaiian Tiger Shark

a fish swimming under water

Tiger sharks are one of the ocean’s most iconic and feared predators. With their massive size and fearsome reputation, they can be found in many areas of the world, including the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. These sharks are known to migrate long distances, which has been studied extensively by scientists over the years.

Tiger sharks in Hawai’i are known to migrate between the main Hawaiian Islands and the nearby atolls and seamounts, such as French Frigate Shoals and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. These migrations occur seasonally, with the sharks traveling to different locations during different times of the year.

One study conducted by scientists from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa used satellite tagging to track the movements of tiger sharks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The study found that the sharks traveled long distances, with some traveling over 2,500 kilometers in just a few months. The researchers also noted that the sharks tended to stay in deeper waters during the day and move into shallower waters at night.

Another study conducted by researchers from the University of Tokyo found that tiger sharks in Hawai’i tend to migrate toward the main Hawaiian Islands during the winter months. The study used acoustic tagging to track the movements of the sharks and found that they were more likely to be found in the waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands during the winter.

So why do Hawaiian tiger sharks migrate, and what factors influence their behavior? The exact reasons for these migrations are still not fully understood, but ongoing research is helping to shed light on this fascinating behavior.

One factor that may influence the migration patterns of tiger sharks in Hawai’i is changes in water temperature. Like many other shark species, tiger sharks are ectothermic, meaning their body temperature is regulated by the temperature of the surrounding water. Changes in water temperature may prompt the sharks to move to different locations in search of more favorable conditions.

The availability of prey is another factor that may influence the migration patterns of tiger sharks in Hawai’i. Tiger sharks are opportunistic feeders that will eat a wide variety of prey, including fish, turtles, seabirds, and even other sharks. As the availability of different prey species changes throughout the year, the sharks may move to different locations in search of food.

Breeding behaviors may also play a role in the migration patterns of tiger sharks in Hawai’i. While little is known about the mating habits of these sharks, it is thought that they may mate in deeper waters and then move to shallower waters to give birth to their pups. This could explain why the sharks tend to stay in deeper waters during the day and move into shallower waters at night.

Despite their fearsome reputation, tiger sharks are an important part of the marine ecosystem in Hawai’i. They help to maintain a healthy balance of predator and prey species, and their migration patterns are an important area of study for scientists interested in understanding the behavior of these powerful predators. By tracking their movements, researchers can gain valuable insights into the factors that influence their behavior and help to inform efforts to protect these important species.

Overall, the migration patterns of Hawaiian tiger sharks are a fascinating subject of study for scientists and laypeople alike. By continuing to study these magnificent creatures, we can better understand the complex interactions between predator and prey species in the ocean, and work to protect these important and iconic animals for generations to come.

By Gina Glazer, Shark Safety Diver


  • Papastamatiou, Y. P., et al. “Telemetry and random walk models reveal complex patterns of partial migration in a large marine predator.” Ecology 94.11 (2013): 2595-2606.
  • Watanabe, Yusuke Y., et al. “Seasonal and ontogenetic changes in depth distribution
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