Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 102, Issue 12, pp 1559–1567 | Cite as

Tiger shark predation on large ocean sunfishes (Family Molidae) – two Australian observations

  • Marianne NyegaardEmail author
  • Samantha Andrzejaczek
  • Curt S. Jenner
  • Micheline-Nicole M. Jenner


Sharks are commonly listed as predators of the large ocean sunfishes (genera Mola and Masturus), yet documented shark predation events on adult sunfish are exceedingly infrequent in the literature. Here we recount two Australian observations of tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) predation on sunfish of ca. 1.3 and 2 m total length, respectively. The attacks demonstrate that tiger sharks are both able and willing to predate on large sunfish; however, based on a paucity of sunfish remains in tiger shark stomach analyses, and a lack of reports of the common sunfish parasite Molicola horridus in tiger sharks, these observations likely represent opportunistic predation events. The seemingly limited interactions may reflect differing habitat use by sunfish and tiger sharks within their overlapping distribution ranges, alternatively, large sunfish may comprise low quality or undesired prey for tiger sharks. Further, despite indications of prey debilitation during both accounts, the attacks likely represent indiscriminate tiger shark feeding events with no particular prey handling strategy.


Mola alexandrini Mola tecta Galeocerdo cuvier Feeding strategy Molicola horridus Predator-prey interactions 



We are grateful to Jim Prescott (formerly Australian Fisheries Management Authority), Jeff Jeffersen (Queensland Museum), Alastair Graham (Australian National Fish Collection in Hobart) and the staff at RV Whale Song, as well as to Patricio Alberto Zapata Bustos, Remy Sautaux, Roser Gari Perez and Jess Hadden for kindly allowing the use of their images.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, Natural SciencesAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Hopkins Marine StationStanford UniversityPacific GroveUSA
  3. 3.Centre for Whale Research (WA) Inc.FremantleAustralia

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