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Do Sharks Hunt Sea Turtles?

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Sharks are known for being aggressive predators, but some species are even more dangerous than others.

The great white shark has long been considered the top predator in the ocean (which means that turtles are on their menu), but in recent times, new research shows that other sharks are much more likely to attack turtles, including tiger sharks.

Turtle under the sea

Great white sharks, as well as other sharks, are capable of breaking through thick layers of bone and cartilage to reach their prey. This makes them extremely dangerous, especially since they hunt at night.

In fact, great white sharks are responsible for 90% of all fatal attacks on humans. But, what about species that like to reside in the ocean with them – such as sea turtles?

If you’re currently curious about whether, or not, sharks eat sea turtles, then this is the article for you.

To help you understand more about this, we’ll be looking at whether, or not, sharks hunt for turtles, as well as taking a closer look at how sharks are able to break through the shell. 

So, whenever you’re ready, just read on!

Do Sharks Eat Sea Turtles?

Yes, sharks do eat sea turtles. In fact, sharks (all types) are considered to be one of the sea turtle’s biggest predators. There are many species of sharks that hunt sea turtles.

However, most people think about great whites when they think about sharks hunting sea turtles. Great white sharks are among the largest predatory fish in the world.

Swimming white sharks

As mentioned before, these sharks have been shown to be responsible for 90% of human fatalities due to shark attacks.

However, there are also smaller species of sharks that can cause serious damage to sea turtles. These include hammerhead sharks, which are often seen swimming near beaches where sea turtles lay eggs.

Hammerheads are known to make short incursions into shallow waters, where they may come across an unsuspecting sea turtle. 

Other species of sharks that hunt for sea turtles include white tip reef sharks, blue sharks, and bull sharks.

All of these sharks are usually found in tropical and subtropical regions around the globe, which is the same ocean regions that sea turtles are most commonly found living in, too.

What Are Sea Turtles Shells Made Of?

The first thing we need to understand before we jump any further is that there are two types of turtle shells: hard-shelled and soft-shelled.

Most marine animals have a softer shell, while most land animals have a harder shell. So, in the case of sea turtles, they will usually have a softer shell than that of their land-dwelling counterparts. 

You might also be interested to learn that most sea turtles tend to have much smaller shells, which might go some way into explaining why sharks are able to break through the shells.

Nevertheless, the hardest part of a sea turtle’s shell is called the carapace. It protects the animal from injury, helps it maintain its temperature, and acts as an extraskeletal structure for movement.

Swimming turtle

There are actually three different layers within the carapace.

These include the plastron (the bottom), the scute (top), and the tergum (middle). The plastron covers the belly of the turtle, while the scutes cover the rest of the body. 

The next layer is the upper shell, which consists of both the nuchal ligament and the ribs.

The nuchal ligament runs along the back of the neck, connecting the head to the rest of the body, while the ribs run down either side of the neck.

The final layer is the lower shell, which is made up of the pelvic girdle and the tail plate.

The pelvic girdle connects to the hind legs and supports the tail plate. The carapace can range between 4 inches and 15 inches across, depending on the size of the turtle. 

Now that we know how the carapace works, let’s move on to the next section.

How Do Sharks Break The Shell?

So, if you’ve ever wondered how sharks can break a sea turtle’s carapace, we’re going to be breaking down the hunting process of sharks when they attack sea turtles below.

Interestingly, you’ll see that the process isn’t as complicated as you think. 

First, when a shark spots a sea turtle and it catches its attention as potential prey, the shark will swim toward the sea turtle very slowly, keeping pace with it.

Then, when it decides that it would like to attack it, the shark will usually swim underneath the sea turtle, so that it can catch it with the element of surprise from underneath.

When the shark is ready to make its advance on the sea turtle, it will swim directly toward the sea turtle and bite it. 

Once the shark has the sea turtle in its jaw, it will then begin firmly pressing down on it in order to cause the shell to crack.

Depending on the size of the shark, the shark may also thrash and shake the sea turtle in order to pull it apart.

From there, it will continue pulling on the pieces of the sea turtle’s shell until it breaks completely. Once the shell has been broken, the sea turtle’s body will be exposed to the shark, where the shark will then proceed to eat it. 

This whole process only takes a few minutes, but it’s also important to note that sea turtles will try their best to avoid this from occurring by hiding out of view of the shark if they can spot the advance in time.

Sea turtles are pretty smart, so they are usually vigilant of their surroundings, especially in open expanses of water where the chances of a sneak shark attack is much more likely. 

In addition to this, sharks will also use echolocation in order to locate various types of sea creatures to hunt, including jellyfish, squid, and even sea turtles. 

Echolocation is the ability to use sound waves to help detect the presence of potential prey.

When a shark picks up on these high sound frequencies, it will then swim to the area that the sound is coming from to see if there is any potential prey there. 

However, this method of hunting occurs far less in sharks, as they usually stick to the effective method of stalking prey and sneaking up on them out of the blue when they are ready to attack.

Final Thoughts

There we have it! As you can see, sharks are one of the biggest threats that a sea turtle can experience while in the wild. 

Luckily, they have ways to protect themselves, such as using their shells as a way to stay camouflaged from view.

Plus, sharks are also able to break through the shells using their sharp teeth and strong jaws, and this is especially true for larger breeds of sharks. 

Thank you for taking the time to read through this guide, we hope that it has helped you to better understand how sharks hunt turtles, as well as how they are able to break through their shells.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.