Shark Diet: What Do Sharks Eat in the Wild?

Have you ever wondered what sharks eat in their natural habitat? Find out in this informative and up-to-date blog!

Oct 9, 2023By Nikita Hillier
what do sharks eat in the wild

Often referred to as ‘the kings of the ocean’ or ‘the predators of the ocean’, sharks are very well-known for being dangerous predators. Though, beyond that, they are so much more than how they are depicted on social media, movies, and the internet. These creatures are not as dangerous as they appear.

While they don’t eat humans as many believe, they do have quite the appetite. Though, if they don’t eat humans as everyone says, what do they eat then? Find out what sharks eat in the wild in this in-depth blog!

The Variations of a Sharks Diet

close up shark underwater amongst fish
Image Credit: Walter Torres on Pexels

Setting all prejudice aside for a brief moment, many sharks actually eat squid, fish, crustaceans, and even seals! However, everything depends on the individual shark. This makes it hard to give a broad-spectrum answer.

For example:

• Blue Sharks eat squid.

• Hammerhead Sharks eat stingrays.

• Tiger Sharks eat turtles.

• Smooth Dogfish sharks eat lobsters and crabs.

While the named species above are pretty specific on what they choose to dine on, tiger sharks on the other hand, tend to not discriminate. They have been known to eat whatever is within their range. At times, this has included sea snakes, turtles, and even canisters of gasoline!

Sharks who are much faster, like the Shortfin Mako Shark, tend to snack on seals, tunas, swordfish, and even other sharks! They may even develop a taste for dolphins, porpoises, and sea lions. Some sharks have even been known to chow down on dead whales.

In this instance, the story of Shark vs Whale is defined differently. Back to sharks and what they eat, the largest species of shark, the Whale Shark, doesn’t hunt. Instead, they have gills that sift through water and capture plankton.

Carnivorous Sharks

great white shark open mouth hunting water
Image Credit: Mile Ribeiro on Pexels

Carnivorous sharks don’t tend to discriminate when it comes to their food. Most carnivorous sharks prefer to eat mollusks, crustaceans, and fish. However, larger, faster species will eat dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, seals, and even sea turtles! If they’re fast enough, they can take down swordfish, and even the odd tuna!

There are some sharks that will eat seabirds when given the opportunity. Other sharks, even if they’re carnivorous, will be picky with their food. Hammerheads, as listed above, will almost exclusively eat stingrays.

It all depends on the species of shark and what is in their immediate environment at any time. Many of these carnivorous sharks are extremely skilled when it comes to hunting. Though, they do eat differently depending on the species.

While some will tear through their prey and take massive chunks, others will swallow an entire animal. The Thresher Shark will stun their prey first in order to consume them easily.

Planktivorous Sharks

group of sharks swimming underwater with fish
Image Credit: Mile Ribeiro on Pexels

Sharks that are known as planktivores exclusively feed on plankton. This is obviously very different from what the media often feeds us. There are actually some sharks, even the big ones, who prefer plankton and will choose it over meat.

Sharks that fit into this category include the Megamouth Shark, Whale Shark, and Basking Shark. Essentially, they suction water and filter food through it. They then swallow them when a large quantity accumulates.

It takes quite a while to get enough plankton to swallow, but they capture around 2kg per hour. While they do have teeth, they are very small and don’t get used during the feeding process at all.

How Much Do Sharks Eat?

underneath shark underwater close up
Image Credit: Los Muertos Crew on Pexels

How much a shark will eat on an average day will all depend on how big the shark is, what species the shark is, and whether it is carnivorous or planktivorous. While some shark species will continuously eat large meals, others will eat once and then not need to eat again for a number of weeks.

A cool fact is that sharks are able to live off the oil that is stored in their liver when they consume a meal. They will only have the instinct to eat again when the oil level in their liver begins to dwindle. Sharks don’t need to eat as much as most animals as they are cold-blooded.

This means they burn energy at a very slow rate due to their circulation being much slower than other animals.

How Do Sharks Find Their Prey?

shark with school of zebra fish underwater
Image Credit: Daniel Torobekov on Pexels

Contrary to popular belief, sharks are extremely intelligent. They use sound and vibration in order to locate their prey. It is their most-used sense when they are trying to find a food source.

Why, you may ask? Well, underwater, sound actually travels much faster than it does on dry land. Sharks find low-frequency pulsed sounds. This sense alone is enough to make them excellent hunters.

Nikita Hillier
By Nikita Hillier

Nikita is a huge animal lover who has grown up on a farm with many different animals, from dogs and cats to horses and cows! She has a lot of experience in the equine industry and is even in the process of studying for an internationally accredited Equine Sports Massage Certificate! In her spare time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her beloved animals!