What do sharks eat in the wild?
Asking what do sharks eat is a little like asking what do dogs eat. It depends on the species. A Great Dane won't have the same exact diet as a Chihuahua. The size and breed can affect dietary preferences.
A Great White Shark won't eat the same things as a Dwarf Lanternfish, which is a truly massive seven inches in length. Generally speaking, a shark will eat most any fish smaller than itself. They tend to eat whenever food is available regardless of being hungry and go into a feeding frenzy at the scent of blood in the water.
Sharks have the ability to sense electromagnetic fields produced by their prey. They use these fields to hunt because they have poor eyesight. However, when they encounter another stronger EM field, they don't like it and leave the area. This stronger field can blind their senses.
Sometimes, sharks will even stop eating when outside of their normal environment. For instance, Great Whites, ravenous though they are, will simply stop moving when in captivity. They won't eat or swim or anything. So, what they eat depends as much on their circumstances as anything else and location too.
There is also a myth that sharks eat humans. That isn't true at all, sharks don't normally eat humans. The problem is they sometimes think we are seals when we swim and splash about in the water. After one bite, they tend to spit us back out. That's why so many people survive shark attacks, the sharks figured out we don't taste good.
What Do Sharks Eat at the Top of the Food Chain?
The really big ones like the Great White Shark , can eat most anything they can catch. They like large, fat animals, like seals and larger fish, like dolphins. They prefer fresh, raw sea-food, and anything else that lives in the water. That's why when you watch shark hunters on tv they keep buckets of fish lying around as bait. Having said that, sharks are remarkably flexible in what they will eat.
If a shark is hungry it can even resort to eating trash and garbage floating around in the ocean. In small amounts this usually doesn't effect them much, but in large amounts it is pretty bad. Anyone who lives near the oceans should try to avoid polluting the water... or swimming near hungry sharks. You might be surprised what they'll stoop to eating. However, they don't like to do so, and will prefer to chase down specific types of prey if at all possible. Given a choice between a sea lion and almost anything else, a Great White Shark will attack the sea lion. Chum, or random fish parts, is only a least common denominator between shark species. Other sharks are like ambush predators and will prefer to eat live prey that is lured in by it.
What do small sharks Eat?
Smaller sharks tend to be bottom feeders, scouring the ocean floor for small prey. They will usually be hard to see coming and rely on stealth. Their diet can be almost anything moving on the sea-floor, as well as things that commonly drop down from the waters above. Bits of fish that fall down, crabs, mollusks, squid, lobster, and shrimp are all part of the bottom feeder's diet. Just like the larger sharks, they tend to eat seafood, preferring to eat whatever is nearest to their habitats. However, bottom feeders are a lot more flexible with their choices of food as they don't go hunting large prey very often.
While they can eat large amounts of crab, lobster, and shrimp, they usually don't. This is because humans tend to monopolize these food sources and keep them all to themselves.
Whale Sharks and Other Exceptions
Sharks are a truly diverse group of animals. They can't all be lumped in together. For instance, the greatest largest shark of all, the whale shark, is actually a filter feeder. It can reach upwards of 40 feet long, but is one of the safest sharks to come across. It doesn't hunt down prey. It merely swims along with its mouth open and eats plankton, krill, and other microscopic life. Along with the basking shark and the megamouth shark, it is one of the only three filter feeding sharks known to man.
When you want to know what do sharks eat, you'll need to look up a specific species of shark to narrow down the answer.