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What Do Sharks Eat? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Tiffany Donald

Tiffany has taught Special Education and First Year Experience on the collegiate level. She holds a master's degree in education and in religion.

Sharks are large fish that some people believe will eat anything moving, even people! Do you think this is true? This lesson will help you learn more about them.

Sharks are Carnivores

Many people - like you! - wonder what sharks eat. Almost all sharks are carnivores, or meat eaters. This means they like fish and large sea mammals (animals with hair) such as dolphins and seals. They also eat turtles and seagulls, or even other sharks! And because their teeth and jaws are so strong, it's no problem for sharks to chew or rip through tough skin, bones, or hard shells.

Shark feeding in school of fish

Location and Size Matter

The type of meat a shark eats depends on where it lives. This is like how someone from Mexico eats a lot of rice and beans but someone from Italy eats more spaghetti.

Sharks that live near the surface, or top, of the water are the ones that eat sea mammals or other sharks. They are usually bigger, with a sharp sense of smell, and they can feel when tasty food is moving nearby. Smaller sharks often live at the bottom of the water. They can sneak up on and surprise the animals they want to eat. Instead of eating other sharks, they prefer clams or squid.

But when they can't find their favorite foods, sometimes sharks have to eat whatever they can get! Sharks are able to easily adapt, or change their behavior, so that they can live and feed wherever they live. After all, if you move to a new country, you'll probably have to eat different food if you don't want to starve.

Shark searching for food at bottom of sea

Will Sharks Eat You?

Maybe you've seen the movie Jaws or heard that sharks really like to eat people. The truth is, they don't! Sharks are a lot like you - they enjoy eating the food that they always eat. In their case, this means fish and sea mammals. (Maybe you like fish, too, or pizza.) But people? No way.

If a shark bites a swimmer, it's probably because it is confused or curious about how that person is splashing in the water. And even then, it'll probably let the person go because humans are weird food to sharks.

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