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Researchers Baffled After Tiger Shark Barfs up Entire Echidna

Tigers sharks eat everything—so the saying goes. But that doesn’t mean researchers weren’t absolutely floored when a tiger shark barfed up an entire echidna. We can’t imagine that spiky meal went down . . . or up . . . easily.

Yesterday, James Cook University (JCU) announced the odd incident that occurred during a 2022 research trip. “Former JCU PhD student Dr Nicolas Lubitz and his team were busy tagging marine life off the coast of Orpheus Island, north Queensland in May 2022 when the shark they caught regurgitated a dead echidna,” the press release reads.

JCU says the researchers believe this is a world-first discovery and, for the researchers, it was “the shock of their lives.”

Lubitz says the team was well aware of tiger sharks’ reputation for being non-discriminate scavengers. “I’ve seen videos of them eating a rock for no reason,” he told JCU. In fact, researchers have also found items like license plates and tires within tiger sharks’ stomach contents. An echidna, though? An Australian land mammal covered in sharp quills?

“When [the shark] spat it out, I looked at it and remarked ‘What the h*ll is that?'” Lubitz said. “Someone said to take a picture, so I scrambled to get my phone.”

In Lubitz’s photo, you can see the tiger shark next to a dark object, the regurgitated echidna.

tiger shark ate echidna
Image by Nic Lubitz via James Cook University

Lubitz told JCU he assumes the shark snatched the echidna as it swam in the shallows or possibly between islands. It must have been a recent meal, since the researchers noted the echidna was still fully intact with all its spines and its legs.

“We were quite shocked at what we saw,” he said. “In this case, I think the echidna must have just felt a bit funny in its throat.”

After getting over their shock, the researchers tagged the tiger shark with an acoustic tracker then released it safely back into the wild.

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