Can Sharks Get Fat? – Truthful Guide

can sharks get fat

Sharks are notorious for being some of the most feared animals in the ocean thanks to their fierce reputation and apex predator status.

They are perfectly adapted to life underwater and have some of the best senses in the animal kingdom.

Sharks are opportunistic feeders that will primarily feed on small fish and invertebrates, but they’ll eat just about anything they can get their jaws on.

Today, we’re going to answer a question that often comes to mind when discussing these top predators. “Can sharks get fat?”

NO, sharks do not get fat. Some sharks are estimated to travel up to 50 miles per day and can go six weeks or more without food. They are far too active to get fat as they are constantly on the move.

Can Sharks Really Get Fat?

No shark has ever been classified are obese. In the wild, sharks swim many miles per day and live a lifestyle that requires constant movement to search for food.

With movement comes energy expenditure, meaning sharks burn quite a lot of food when they are roaming or traveling.

Whilst sharks do not look fat externally, some species of shark that undergo long migrations do pack on a few extra pounds before migration.

Great white sharks, tiger sharks, and mako sharks are among some of the species that migrate over vast distances to reach abundant feeding grounds.

Where Do Sharks Store Fat?

Many species of sharks migrate thousands of miles to feeding grounds each year to take advantage of the rich waters.

Some sharks go as long as six months without eating anything, and you can quite literally see the algae growing on their teeth due to not eating.

During this time sharks rely on fat reserves to keep them going. But how do sharks survive for so long without eating and travel thousands of miles across an ocean with no food?

Research has found evidence that Great white shark migrations are fuelled by large reserves of fat stores in the shark’s LIVER.

A shark’s liver can account for 28 percent of an adult’s body weight with other fat being stored in the shark’s muscles.

Image: Bernard DUPONT

During these long migrations, sharks tap into a supply of lipids that are stored in their liver for energy.

When a Great whites liver is stocked in energy reserves, as much as 90 percent of the liver is taken up by lipids.

Orcas are the only animals on earth that can take on a Great white shark. Pods of orca actively prey on great white sharks, and the only area that they eat of the shark is the liver.

Killer whales quite literally tear the shark in half and rip out the liver, leaving the rest of the shark’s body to waste.

How Much Fat Do Sharks Have?

For the most part, sharks don’t hold much fat at all. In fact, around 85 percent of a shark’s body is powerful muscle that they use to move through the water efficiently.

The only area where some sharks hold fat is in their liver as their bodies are so efficient at burning it off due to the amount of movement they do.

The amount of fat a shark holds will largely depend on the species. Some sharks hold barely any fat at all, whilst some migratory sharks store for to fuel them for long-distance migration.

When Great white sharks kill a seal will store the fat inside its enormous liver for energy reserves.

A shark’s liver is much larger than a human liver and is typically between 5 and 25% of the animal’s total body weight.

To put this into perspective, a Great white shark that weighed 3312kg (7202lbs) had a liver of 456kg (1005lbs).

About 90 percent of the shark’s liver is liquid fat which is equivalent to about 550 gallons of oil.

So you can see why Orca only choose to eat a shark’s liver as it’s much more nutritious and fatty than anywhere else.

Why Do Sharks Store Fat To Migrate?

When species like the Great white migrate, they travel approximately 2500 miles between the California coast and the Pacific ocean each year.

They do so to reach richer feeding grounds where food is more abundant and they can be sure to get the food they need to survive.

When traveling across the deep ocean, there isn’t a lot of food that Great white sharks can eat so they don’t eat at all for up to six months.

Without having a fatty liver that they can fall back on for energy stores, Great whites wouldn’t be able to migrate across this distance and would die.

Therefore, it makes sense for sharks to hold fat in their livers so that they can migrate without starving to death.

Final Thoughts

So, do sharks get fat? No, however, some species fuel themselves up and store fat in their gigantic livers to sustain the long migration to their feeding grounds.

Sharks are constantly on the move and burn a lot of calories by swimming, which is why sharks do NOT get fat externally and a shark has never been classified as obese.

While it’s true that some species store fat in their livers, this is by design and for the sole purpose of sustaining a long fasting period where they do not eat at all.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and learn more about some of the top ocean predators.

Catch you in the next one!

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