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What Do Sharks Eat? - Lesson for Kids

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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.

Expert Contributor
Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

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. Updated: 12/23/2020

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.

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  • 0:04 Sharks Are Carnivores
  • 1:26 Will Sharks Eat You?
  • 2:11 Food Chains
  • 2:38 Lesson Summary
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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.

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Additional Activities

What Do Sharks Eat?: Discussion Questions

In this activity, you'll check your knowledge regarding a shark's diet.

Directions

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.

Questions

  1. How do you classify a tiger shark and a great white shark in terms of their diet?
  2. What unique feature allows a shark to feed on other animals?
  3. Why do sharks remain at the top of the food chain?
  4. Do sharks play an essential role in marine habitats? Why or why not?


Sample Answers

  1. The tiger shark and the great white shark are carnivores. These are animals that feed on other animals to survive.
  2. A shark has a study jaw and sharp teeth capable of tearing tough skin, bones, or hard shells of marine animals.
  3. Sharks remain at the top of the food chain since they are less likely to be eaten by other aquatic animals.
  4. 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.

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