Shelly Meal: Do Sharks Eat Turtles? (How, Why, Where)

do sharks eat turtles

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Sharks are truly fascinating animals that have a fierce reputation for being some of the top predators in the ocean.

With over 500 different species, sharks range in size, power, behavior, and diet, with most sharks feeding on smaller fish and invertebrates.

That said, larger sharks that have sharp, strong teeth and powerful jaws are able to feed on different types of prey.

This brings up an interesting question that we’re going to discuss in detail today, do sharks eat turtles?

A turtle’s shell is extremely hard and can withstand thousands of pounds worth of pressure, offering their internal organs protection and keeping them safe from most predators, but not all.

If you’ve ever wondered if sharks eat turtles, stick around as you’ll learn everything there is to know about the subject in this post.

Do Sharks Eat Turtles?

Yes, some species of shark do eat turtles. Sharks are opportunistic feeders that will make the most of any potential meal, including many species of turtles.

Sharks will typically prey on turtles when they are coming up for air or are swimming near the surface, but the frequency in which sharks hunt turtles will depend on a number of factors.

do sharks eat turtles
Image by Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Prey availability, size of the shark, size of the turtle, and ease of the kill all come into play when sharks eat turtles.

Sharks will often eat baby turtles or the sick and injured as they’re much easier to hunt and offer little resistance.

Can Sharks Break Turtle Shells?

Yes, the species of sharks that hunt turtles are able to easily break their shells and eat their soft insides.

Large sharks have incredibly powerful jaws and a bite force that computer models estimate is around 18,000 Newtons (18,000kgm/s²).

That’s a serious amount of pressure, combined with some of the deadliest teeth in the animal kingdom.

They also have a set of sharp serrated teeth that enable them to bite through the tough shell of sea turtles.

The shell of sea turtles is softer than their terrestrial cousins, which enables large sharks to crack through it like they’re cracking a nut.

But the size and strength of the turtle’s shell can also play a role in determining whether the shark will be able to break through it or not.

Adult turtles have much thicker and stronger shells than juveniles, which makes it more difficult for sharks to break them and may make them reconsider their efforts.

Which Sharks Eat Turtles?

Sea turtles have it rough from their birth on the beach, with a treacherous dash to the ocean followed by many hungry predators that are looking for an easy meal.

Only about 1 in 1,000 turtles make it to adulthood because of this, the odds are stacked against them with only the lucky surviving.

Once sea turtles reach adulthood, they still face a number of threats that could cut their life short at any moment.

do sharks eat turtles
Image by tobze

Pollution, habitat loss, entanglement, and hungry sharks just to name a few.

Several shark species are known to prey on turtles, with the most common culprits being great white sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, and hammerheads.

These are some of the largest shark species that have the size and power to go after tough prey like turtles.

But it’s important to note that not all individual sharks of these species will go after turtles, it depends on prey availability, location, and feeding preferences of individuals.

Why Do Sharks Eat Turtles?

As mentioned earlier, sharks are opportunistic feeders that are equipped with the necessary tools to go after many different types of prey.

They’re large, powerful, and have an immense bite force that is capable of cracking through the shell of even large adult turtles.

But baby turtles are a much better alternative, they are an easy, high-protein snack for sharks and often come in abundance as they dash for the ocean after hatching.

Turtle hatchlings have not yet had the chance for their shells to harden so they have very little protection, which is why almost any type of shark will eat them.

Whilst adult turtles are more difficult prey for sharks, many species still eat them as they’re a source of protein and fat which sharks need to survive.

If the shark is particularly hungry and there’s little prey in the area, a tiger, bull, or white shark will not hesitate to crack open a sea turtle.

The ocean is a cutthroat environment where only the strong survive, and sharks will do whatever it takes to ensure their survival.

Another reason why sharks eat turtles is due to habitat overlap. Many species of sharks and turtles share similar habitats so come into contact with one another often.

Sharks may come into contact with turtles whilst on the hunt for food, or turtles may stumble into the sharks hunting grounds which makes it a target for the shark.

There are a number of reasons why sharks eat turtles, but ultimately, turtles are a nutritious source of food that some sharks can make quick work of thanks to their power and size.

More On Sharks Eating Turtles

Sharks aren’t particularly fussy when it comes to food, they are known to eat loggerhead turtles, green sea turtles, leatherback turtles, and hawksbill turtles.

When these predators target turtles, they’ll often bite a flipper first to immobilize the turtle and make it easier to go in for the kill.

Oftentimes sharks will wait for turtles to come up for air before they attack, especially tiger sharks that prefer an ambush hunting technique.

do sharks eat turtles
Image by Bernard Spragg. NZ

In some locations, tiger sharks are known to feed on nesting turtles which can have a big impact on turtle populations in the area.

But shark predation is just one of the many factors that influence turtle populations, with survival rates of most species being less than 1%.

Wrapping Up

In summary, sharks certainly do eat turtles. In fact, they eat many species of turtle, even the largest species in the world, the leatherback.

Aside from their shells and speed, turtles are relatively defenseless prey for sharks that offer a meal high in protein and fat.

Only large sharks that have sharp teeth and powerful jaws have what it takes to be able to prey on turtles, as their shells can be incredibly strong.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed learning more about sharks eating turtles in this post and you leave having learned something new today.

Thanks for taking the time and I’ll see you in the next one.