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.
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.
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.
There are more than 300 kinds of sharks, and only a dozen of these have actually been involved in attacking humans. Animals (and people) sometimes make bad choices when they don't understand what's going on.
Sharks are an important part of the food chain. A food chain shows how animals, like sharks, get the food needed to live and what they usually eat. Sharks are important to the food chain because they eat weak or sick animals. This keeps the animal population where they live healthy. If sharks disappear or become extinct, this would interrupt the food chain and cause trouble throughout the ocean.
Sharks are carnivores and eat meat. What a shark eats can depend where it lives and its size, though they are able to adapt, or change their behavior to make sure they get the food they need. Sharks are important to the food chain, which outlines which animals eat what in nature because they keep the animal population where they live healthy. But will they eat you? No way!
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
What Do Sharks Eat?: Discussion Questions
In this activity, you'll check your knowledge regarding a shark's diet.
For this activity, print or copy this page on a blank piece of paper. Then, carefully read the given narrative and provide a written response to the questions that follow. You may use the web to search for ideas in answering the questions.
Shark Food Chain
A food chain pertains to the order in energy transfer of food from one organism to another. The top predator in a typical ocean food chain would be a shark, such as a tiger shark and great white shark. The tiger shark is a solitary aquatic hunter notable for having the broadest food spectrum of all sharks. Its diet is composed mainly of unsuspecting prey, such as crustaceans, fish, seals, birds, squid, turtles, sea snakes, dolphins, and even smaller sharks. The great white shark has a similar diet to a tiger shark but enjoys feeding on decaying whale carcass. Sharks play an integral role, as a scavenger and a predator, in all levels of the ocean food chain.
- How do you classify a tiger shark and a great white shark in terms of their diet?
- What unique feature allows a shark to feed on other animals?
- Why do sharks remain at the top of the food chain?
- Do sharks play an essential role in marine habitats? Why or why not?
- The tiger shark and the great white shark are carnivores. These are animals that feed on other animals to survive.
- A shark has a study jaw and sharp teeth capable of tearing tough skin, bones, or hard shells of marine animals.
- Sharks remain at the top of the food chain since they are less likely to be eaten by other aquatic animals.
- Yes. Sharks maintain the species below them in the food chain by removing the weak and the sick. By doing so, they ensure that the remaining population is healthy.
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack