How Do Sharks Eat: What, How Frequently, Several Insights


Sharks are large animals that swim continually and feed on a variety of marine animals. But, how do sharks eat? Let’s find out. 

Some sharks swallow their prey without needing to chew. Other shark varieties, like the Port Jackson Shark, grind the prey using their broad back teeth. Some sharks are also filter feeders. When eating large prey, sharks injure them first to bring them under control and then use their teeth to bite and grind their prey. 

Image Credits: “Shark infested waters” by rumpleteaser is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There are a lot of questions asked about the shark’s eating habits. Let us address some of the most commonly asked questions.

How do sharks eat in water?

If you are curious to know how sharks manage to eat in water, you are not alone. Allow us to tell you more in this regard.

Sharks are equipped with an excellent set of teeth that enables them to eat in the water. Their teeth are designed in such a way that they can hold and bite the prey using their lower jaw and slice it with the help of their upper jaw. Besides, they have a combination of sharp and blunt teeth for biting and grinding.

We must mention here that most sharks are carnivores. They enjoy feeding on plankton, fishes, sea lions, crustaceans, and so on.

How do sharks eat without swallowing water?

Since sharks live in water, it is common to wonder how they can eat their food without swallowing water. Let us find out how.

Sharks do swallow water while eating. However, this water is expelled through their gill slits during the respiratory process and isn’t retained by the body. The aquatic animals, in general, have a unique mechanism that allows them to eat their food without ingesting massive amounts of water. 

Even if sharks have large amounts of seawater in their bodies, they have nothing to worry about as the concentration of salt is much higher in their body. 

How often do sharks eat?

Image Credits: “Shark Above Water” by Evan 07 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sharks are massive animals, so the common assumption is that they have a voracious appetite. But is it true? Let’s learn more in this regard.

Sharks eat once every 2 or 3 days. This is because although sharks are large animals, they need time to break down and digest their food. Ideally, during each meal, most sharks consume 0.5 to 3% of their body weight. Similarly, sharks do not hunt every day and only seek new prey once they have digested their previous meal.

Sometimes, sharks may consume up to 10% of their body weight in a meal or two. However, digestion is a difficult process for them, and once full, they do not get hungry until they have digested the last meal.

How much do sharks eat?

It is likely that you think sharks eat a lot to sustain themselves and gain enough energy to move around the ocean. Let’s look into it.

Surprisingly, sharks eat only 0.5 to 10% of their total body weight in a week. They can eat their total food requirement in one meal or split it between two meals. It takes the sharks a lot of time to digest their meals, and therefore when they are not eating, they focus on breaking down the food.

It is essential for the sharks to ensure that their food is properly digested before their next meal. They use their sharp teeth to bite into the food and crush it using flat, broad teeth. 

How do sharks eat humans?

It is a well-known fact that sharks may often eat humans, either accidentally or on purpose. Let’s find out how they eat humans.

Sharks bite onto the human flesh, digging in with their sharp teeth. Since sharks are heavy-weight creatures, weighing between 1500 to 4000 pounds on average, they are able to drag humans under the water surface. However, they usually let go of their victims and seldom attack them repeatedly, as humans are not their natural prey. 

Most sharks attack humans either out of curiosity or sheer confusion. To the shark’s naked eye, humans might look like seals, and therefore, most unprovoked shark attacks happen only because of this confusion.

How often do sharks eat humans?

As we have mentioned earlier, sharks eat humans mostly by accident. But, how often? Let us find out.

Sharks rarely eat humans. Over the years, there have been only 50-80 shark attacks recorded per year. This is because humans are not part of their natural prey. If a shark attacks humans, it is entirely out of curiosity or confusion. Instead, sharks prefer feeding on fishes, crustaceans, and smaller sharks. 

Most sharks who attack humans do not eat them once they realize they have confused them for seals. Therefore, being killed or eaten by a shark is extremely rare.

How do sharks eat stingrays?

Image Credits: “stingray” by eschipul is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

For those of you who might not know, stingrays are cartilaginous fishes. Let us together figure out how sharks eat them.

Sharks have sharp, pointed front teeth that can grasp onto the stingray’s body and bite into it. Besides, they have flat, broad back teeth that can effortlessly crush the prey. Sometimes, sharks may digest stingrays without even chewing. Other animals that eat stingrays include large fishes, seals, and sea lions.

One of the chief predators of stingrays is the great hammerhead shark. Since stingrays are venomous, it is generally assumed that great hammerheads are immune to this venom and can feed on this animal with ease.

How do sharks eat puffer fish?

Image Credits: “Hilton house dive site Dahab Egypt Dahab Puffer fish” by Mal B is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Puffer fishes have poisonous spikes, so the common question is how do sharks eat them? Allow us to tell you more in this regard.

Sharks can eat puffer fish, even though the animal is full of poisonous substances. This is because sharks are assumed to be impervious to the poison present in these fishes. Besides, some puffer fishes may not have the poison at all. Since puffer fishes are slow swimmers, they become vulnerable to frequent shark attacks.

Sharks, especially tiger sharks, feed on puffer fishes frequently. The toxic substance present in them makes puffer fishes less vulnerable to attacks by other predators, but sharks eat quite indiscriminately, making puffer fishes a good catch for them.

How do sharks eat lionfish?

Image Credits: “Caribbean Lionfish?” by laszlo-photo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Lionfishes are also venomous animals with spikes. But sharks eat them. How? Let’s find out together. 

Some sharks easily engulf the lionfishes as a whole without needing to tear them apart, while others bite them at their mouth. This is done since lionfishes have toxic spikes that are located near their tail fin and on their backs. Besides sharks, eels, groupers, and snappers are some popular predators of lionfishes.

Out of all shark varieties, reef sharks are the most common hunters of lionfishes. They can easily swallow a lionfish as a whole, and some divers also hand-feed the lionfish to the sharks. 

Do sharks eat jellyfish?

Image Credits: “Jellyfish” by Mini D is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Jellyfishes are popular marine animals that are relatively considered harmless. But do sharks eat jellyfishes? Let us find out.

Sharks eat jellyfishes, but only those sharks that live out in the open waters. In particular, pelagic sharks often feed on jellyfish. We must mention here that most sharks prefer eating smaller jellyfishes since the bigger ones are said to carry more venom. Even whale sharks, great white sharks, and basking sharks eat jellyfish.

Jellyfishes may sting sharks in the eye region, but since sharks have a membrane over their eyes, they are able to protect themselves against potential attacks.

How do sharks eat jellyfish?

Now that you know that sharks eat jellyfishes, you may be curious to know how exactly they go about it. Let us find out.

Sharks can either swallow jellyfishes as a whole or bite into them. Often, the jellyfish may try to sting the shark in self-defense, but most sharks are immune to the jellyfish sting. Moreover, they have a protective membrane over their eyes that jumps to their defense and ensures that the shark’s eyes are protected at all costs.

Jellyfishes are gelatinous creatures that are primarily made up of water. Sharks avoid consuming larger jellyfishes since they are said to be more poisonous.

How much food do sharks eat a day?

Sharks are massive creatures, so it is common to assume that they eat a lot in a day. But, how much? Let us figure it out.

Generally speaking, a young shark may eat around 46 pounds of food per day, be it plankton or anything else. Sharks eat around 0.5 to 10% of their body weight per week. Moreover, they usually eat their meals in one go or split them into two. So, it is not exactly possible to calculate how much food they eat per day.

If we go by estimates, a 100-pound shark needs no more than 3 to 4 pounds of fish in a day. There are around 1000 species of sharks, and different varieties have varying dietary requirements. Therefore, determining how much food a shark eats in a day is quite difficult. 

Conclusion 

Sharks are humongous animals with a specific diet requirement. Many of them, like basking sharks and megamouths, are filter feeders, while some rely on their powerful teeth for biting and chewing into their prey. It is important to remember that digestion is a difficult process for sharks which is why they can eat meals only every couple of days. Most sharks feed on fishes, smaller sharks, seals, sea lions, and even plankton.  

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