Shark Diets: What’s on the Menu?

posted: 04/11/12
Read more Read less
Shark Diets
DCL | Photo by iStockphoto
More to Explore From HowStuffWorks.c

You may have heard that you should chew your food 32 times before swallowing — sharks, on the other hand, usually rip and swallow, no chewing needed. Exactly what they get down in a gulp depends on their species. Different sharks have evolved to specialize in different hunting methods, and this affects what they're most equipped to catch. One thing we do know is that all sharks are carnivorous to a certain extent.

Big sharks, like whale and basking sharks, are primarily filter feeders. They leisurely swim through plankton-filled waters, collecting everything in their path. Some are pickier than others, but filter feeders commonly enjoy all manner of minuscule marine life, including plankton, copepods (small crustaceans), fish eggs, larvae and other little snacks in huge quantities.

Other sharks are notably more aggressive, hunting down all shapes and sizes of prey. Some species eat seals, sea lions, sea birds — anything they can wrap their jaws around. Turtles, all types of fish, dolphins and even other sharks can become shark food.

At the bottom of the barrel are fish like the bull shark and tiger shark. Both species will eat almost anything. If you're picturing a gas can, an old boot or the kitchen sink, you're not far off. Although the kitchen sink is perhaps stretching it, researchers have found quite a collection of interesting objects in the bellies of dead tiger sharks — everything from license plates to tires. And sometimes these oddities are still in one piece.

More on
Shark Week