Sharks are known as voracious eaters but have you ever wondered what exactly they eat and how they eat it? Let’s take a look.
Sharks predominantly feed on smaller fish, crustaceans, invertebrates, and marine mammals. Different kinds of sharks may favor one food source over another but in general they aren’t fussy eaters.
The majority of sharks, like the Great White, Tiger Shark or Hammerhead will hunt their prey or sometimes scavenge from dead corpses of whales. Others like the Basking Shark or Whale Shark filter feed.
Although sharks are not selective in their diet there are definite favorite foods for many types of sharks. Dogfish Sharks for example like to eat crabs and lobster while the Hammerhead Shark often feeds on stingray.
The diet of a shark is determined by their environment and habitat. For example, Great White Sharks feed on California sea lions and Tiger Sharks feed on sea turtles in the tropical and temperate oceans.
Fish, other sharks and some marine mammals make up most of a shark’s diet.
Sharks are survivors and will adapt their diet and eating habits if the need arises. Tiger Sharks are known for eating anything and have been found with license plates and oil cans in their stomach.
Not very nutritious but proves they will eat what they come across.
They are also savvy hunters and will choose prey that is injured, ill or weak. This means they have to expend less energy on catching their meal.
Most sharks are carnivorous, and they have the teeth to effectively catch and devour their prey. Some sharks have very specific ways of dealing with their food. For example, the Thresher Shark stuns its prey with its tail before devouring it.
These sharks have mostly triangular shaped teeth which may be either serrated or smooth.
A Whale Shark or Megamouth Sharks filter huge amounts of water through their specially adapted mouths to pick up plankton and krill which forms the majority of their diet.
Captivity Versus Natural Environment
A shark in a zoological environment typically consumes between 1%-10% of its body weight per week. It is assumed that something similar occurs in the wild, but this is obviously difficult to confirm.
Sharks in an artificial environment will have a reduced life span as they do not do well in captivity despite not having to hunt for food or deal with competition in its habitat.
Some sharks can eat a large amount of food and then not eat again for a long time. They can survive by relying on an oil that is stored in their liver when they feed. As stores of this oil get depleted the shark is driven to feed again.
As they are cold blooded creatures sharks don’t need to eat as much or as often as warm blooded animals.
They are better at conserving energy and don’t need to expend any of it on maintaining a constant warm body temperature.
A shark’s digestive system follows a similar pattern as most animals. It has a mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines and rectum. There are a few very distinctive things about sharks when it comes to digestion, however.
First of all, sharks do not chew their food. Instead they rip off pieces of meat from their prey which they then eat whole. They also do not have saliva and so do not break down carbohydrates in their mouth.
Food passes through the esophagus and into the stomach where it is turned into a thick kind of soup by the strong acids and enzymes there.
This is then passed through the duodenum or upper intestine which absorbs nutrients from the food.
As the rest of the food passes through the lower intestine, water is absorbed into the shark’s body from the remainder of the food. Any waste then travels through the lower intestine and is expelled through the rectum.
We hope you have enjoyed this article on what sharks eat and how they eat it.