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Sharks are the great predators of the oceans and have been in these aquatic ecosystems for about 400 million years. Although only seven types of sharks of the almost 400 species that exist are responsible for the majority of accidents with humans, they have gained a terrible fame within marine ecosystems, inspiring famous films that end up increasing dislike for them. Despite becoming a ferocious animal, it is indispensable within the oceans, since they have a fundamental importance in the ecosystems where they live, being an indicator of the health of these bodies of water.
If you have wondered what makes these animals such efficient predators, we invite you to continue reading this AnimalWised article, in which we want to present you with information about how sharks hunt so that you know more about how these sharks feed.You may also be interested in: How do sharks sleep? Index
- Characteristics that make sharks great predators
- What animals do sharks hunt?
- When do sharks hunt?
- How do sharks hunt their prey?
Characteristics that make sharks great predators
Sharks are fish that belong to the class of Chondrichthyans and the superorder Selachimorpha, which have as a distinctive characteristic the presence of a cartilaginous skeleton. Although they are less numerous and diversified than bony fishes, they have been identified near 400 species of sharks worldwide, which can be small and large. Thus, for example, we have the dwarf lantern shark (Etmopterus perryi) of just about 17 centimeters and the whale sharkRhincodon typus), who has a gigantic size reaching over 12 meters in length.
Interestingly, for such an ancient group, sharks have developed a more modern reproductive strategy, such as internal fertilization. Their reproductive modes are complex, slow and they have few young, some are oviparous and others viviparous, with certain species having long gestation periods of up to two years..
Sharks are characterized by having a denticulated skin, which is made up of dentin structures like teeth. Touching a shark from head to tail will give you extremely smooth skin, but if you do the opposite, it will feel like sandpaper. This peculiar skin makes it easier for them to swim by limiting the animal's friction with the water, in addition to making it extremely silent, which helps them to be quite stealthy when hunting.
Other particular features of this group are their well developed sensory organs and some powerful jaws in many of the species, with the presence of a large denture that varies from one group to another, but that in general is formed by several rows of teeth, which can be replaced frequently.
Regarding the behavior of sharks, you have to be cautious, some are elusive and rather shy, but others can attack people fiercely and without warning, which is why certain species are quite dangerous for humans..
All the aforementioned characteristics make sharks great predators, as they can be stealthy and fast, but also fierce and effective. In addition, its powerful jaws mean that, once the prey is trapped, it cannot escape..
Currently, sharks are grouped into eight orders, each divided into different families and with different species that have a specific diet:
- Hexanchiformes (eel and cañabotas sharks)
- Squaliformes (dog sharks)
- Pristiophoriformes (saw sharks)
- Squatiniformes (angel sharks)
- Heterodontiformes (horned sharks)
- Orectolobiformes (carpet sharks)
- Carcharhiniformes (bottom sharks)
- Lamniformes (mako sharks)
Do not miss this other article where we talk about the different types of sharks and their characteristics.
What animals do sharks hunt?
Sharks are carnivorous animals, however, each group may have a preference for one or another type of prey, which will also be a function of their habitat availability. Let's get to know some concrete examples of the feeding of various species of sharks:
- The South African eel shark (Chlamydoselachus africana), with its needle-like teeth, is a predator of smaller sharks, which can devour whole.
- The short-nosed cow shark, or brown cat (Notorynchus cepedianus), hunts other sharks, small fish, seals and rays.
- The dogfish (Squalus acanthias) is a shark with scissors-shaped teeth with a voracious appetite and capable of depressing its food, among which are crabs, herring and mackerel.
- The greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus), despite its extremely slow movements, has a large size and consumes fish, squid, seals and walruses, however, it can also consume carcasses of animals that have been trapped in the ice of the waters where it lives.
- The angel shark (Squatina dumeril) chooses to feed on fish found on the seabed.
- The shark Cat (Ginglymostoma cirratum) feeds on marine invertebrates and other fish.
- The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), the broadmouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) and the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) filter feeders, primarily on plankton, krill, crustaceans, larvae, and small fish. So these sharks don't hunt as such, they just open their mouths for food to enter. Find out how exactly this process works in this article: "Filter animals - What they are and examples ".
- One of the few sharks that can reach estuaries and pass into freshwater bodies is the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), which feeds on all kinds of animals and can be dangerous for people.
- The blue shark (Prionace glauca) bases its diet on a diversity of fish and includes seabirds.
- The gray shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) has a preference for octopus and squid, as well as crabs and shrimp.
- The Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) and the mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) belong to the group of large ocean predators, with an extremely broad diet that includes seals, turtles, other fish such as sharks, squid, rays, snakes, birds and various marine mammals.
- The curious giant hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) hunt fish on the seabed, as well as other sharks, rays, crustaceans, octopus and squid.
As we can see, practically all marine animals can be part of the diet of a shark, so that these are one of the main predators of the planet's oceans. Find out more in the article on What Sharks Eat.
When do sharks hunt?
Sharks are generally solitary, so they do not hunt in groups, unlike killer whales, for example. However, groups of sharks have been sighted hunting together when the prey is very large. As for the preferred time of these animals to hunt, some species of sharks tend to hunt very early in the morning or in the evening, Since there is less light it is easier for them to hide from their prey. However, this activity will also depend on the availability of food and opportunities, since a hungry shark will hardly rule out capturing its prey regardless of the time. So, although they have these preferences, the truth is that sharks hunt at any time of the day.
How do sharks hunt their prey?
These animals in general have various adaptations to optimize the hunting of their prey, so they are very efficient species in this regard. The Sharks they hunt using their developed senses, stealthy but forceful movements and using its powerful jaws, which are provided with teeth from which no species can escape.
These sharks make use of a sensory organ known as the lateral line, which they use to orient themselves in the aquatic environment but also to locate their prey, since it allows them to detect the vibrations that occur around them as a result of movements. Additionally, they rely on other sensory organs that are known as Lorenzini's ampoules, these are located in an organized and bilateral way in various parts of the body, and with them they are capable of detecting the emission of both electromagnetic and electrochemical fields, generated by their potential victims.
Likewise, studies seem to indicate that sharks have very good vision, mainly to see in the dark, so they can enter caves or hunt at night without major problems. They are also capable of detecting molecules released by their prey through smell and taste..
Although sharks hunt using their senses as we have just mentioned, there are species with very peculiar hunting techniques that we will see below:
¿How White Sharks Hunt?
Some species such as the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), they camouflage themselves in the water Taking advantage of its dark color on the back, so that they approach their prey without being seen, once they are close, they attack quickly against the animal that is generally a marine mammal, opening their jaws fully and then closing them with an impressive force . If the victim is not very large, the shark can swallow it whole, but if it is large, it tears it in the area where it has bitten.
¿How Hammerhead Sharks Hunt?
In the group of sphyrnids we find several species known as hammerhead sharks, among which is Sphyrna mokarran, commonly called a giant hammerhead shark. This predator has the senses of these animals much more developed thanks to its characteristic head, which allows the eyes to amplify its vision, as well as its other receptors. They generally tend to swim on the seabed, stalking their prey to hunt them with the help of his head, since it uses it as a powerful weapon.
¿How Tiger Sharks Hunt?
Another example worth mentioning is that of the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), considered a super predator. These sharks stalk their victims on the seabed and follow them stealthily until they pounce on them aggressively and at high speed, completely devouring them. These sharks are sometimes referred to as marine garbage dumps, since they are capable of swallowing practically everything in their path, including human waste, since they have been found in the stomachs of captured individuals..
¿How Bull Sharks Hunt?
Another species quite particular in its way of hunting is the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), which, as we have mentioned, is capable of moving to fresh water bodies. These sharks, in addition to inhabiting various aquatic ecosystems, can swim at both very deep and shallow levels. In principle, they seem docile and slow individuals, but nothing could be further from the truth, since they are fast and aggressive when attacking their prey.
After reviewing different hunting techniques for sharks, we see that they are equipped with different structures to hunt, but, in addition, this is complemented by their behavior and movements, so that their prey, if they do not detect the presence of the shark in time, they will surely become your food.
On the other hand, sharks have been hunted for a long time by people for various purposes and estimates indicate that the murder of millions of them continues annually, so many species are in danger of extinction, being included in some protection program. This shows us once again that no matter the ferocity of an animal, human beings, we are still the main risk for all species on the planet.