Sharks are the ultimate predatorial creatures of the ocean, capable of hunting everything from small prey like fish to larger animals like seals. While penguins may look harmless due to their relatively small size and lack of aggression, they have a lot in common with other sea life sharks consume.
So, do sharks eat penguins?
The answer is yes. Sharks do eat penguins if the opportunity presents itself.
Penguins are typically found in the cool waters of the Southern Hemisphere, where they feed on krill, small fish, and squid. Shark species such as Great White Sharks, Tiger Sharks, and Hammerhead Sharks have been known to target penguins as prey when their usual foods are scarce or unavailable.
In this article, I will discuss more detail about it. Stay tuned!
An astonishing discovery was made in 2017 when researchers from South Africa found that a remarkable 24% of the tiger sharks, they studied, had birds within their stomachs. Amongst these feathered creatures were African Penguins (Spheniscus demersus).
The research team was keen to track what prey the tiger sharks were targeting, and it turned out that penguins were a significant part of their diet. This was an unexpected discovery, given how far away the penguin colonies are from the coastline where the tiger sharks typically dwell.
While rare, it appears that tiger sharks will take advantage and feast on penguins when the opportunity arises. Further study is required to determine just how significant this dietary habit is for this particular species.
Some studies have highlighted that great white sharks feed on penguins and seals. Further research into other shark species and their diets may also reveal if similar instances of predation on penguins occur in other regions of our oceans.
To date, there have been no other confirmed reports or studies detailing sharks eating penguins elsewhere, although anecdotal evidence suggests similar occurrences have occurred.
It would be interesting to see if further research can confirm these reports and give us a clearer picture of just how prevalent this behaviour is among different types of shark species worldwide.
Tiger sharks, great white sharks, and hammerhead sharks are the most likely species of shark to eat penguins.
Tiger sharks are known for being one of the largest predatory fish in the ocean and have an especially large range in which they feed. They will feed on a variety of prey, including penguins, as they migrate through their territory.
On the other hand, great white sharks have been documented eating king penguins off the coasts of South America and Antarctica.
Hammerhead sharks can also be found feeding on various species of penguins in certain habitats.
These predators have been observed actively hunting down their prey and consuming them whole with their powerful jaws. In fact, studies have shown that smaller shark species, such as dogfish and smooth hound, may also occasionally consume penguins as part of their diet, but this behaviour is much less commonplace.
Ultimately, these three shark species are far more likely to prey upon penguins than other varieties due to their size, strength, and predatory behaviours, which make them uniquely adapted to capture and consume aquatic birds such as penguins.
Sharks are known to prey on a variety of species of penguins, including Emperor, Chinstrap, Adelie, Gentoo, Rockhopper, and King Penguins. These species are found in different regions around the world, from Antarctica to the subantarctic islands of New Zealand, Australia, and South America.
Emperor Penguins are the largest species of penguin and can measure up to 122 cm (48 inches) in height and weigh between 11-45 kg (24-99 lb). They typically inhabit Antarctic ice shelves and sea ice during the winter months.
Chinstrap Penguins are slightly smaller than Emperor Penguins at an average size of 70 cm (28 inches) tall and weighing 4-5 kg (9-11 lb). Unlike other species that have smooth plumage on their throats, Chinstrap Penguins have black feathers with a white border that gives them their namesake ‘Chinstrap’ look.
Adélie Penguins measure up to 76 cm (30 inches) tall and weigh 3.6-5.9 kg (8-13 lb). They live along the coastlines of Antarctica as well as on some subantarctic islands, such as the Crozet Islands in the Indian Ocean south of Madagascar.
Gentoo Penguins have bright orange beaks and a distinctive white stripe above each eye that extends across the crown, which gives them their ‘bonnet’ like look. They can measure up to 90 cm (35 inches) in length and weigh between 3-6 kg (6½ – 13 lb).
Rockhopper Penguins inhabit some subantarctic islands, including Tristan da Cunha, Gough Island, and the Falkland Islands off South America’s east coast.
The smallest species of them all is the King Penguin, which measures just over 90 cm (35 inches) tall but is still one of sharks’ favourite prey due to its abundance close to shorelines across its range from Subantarctic Macquarie Island to the Antarctic Peninsula region.
Sharks prey on these various species as they come close to shoreline regions when they come ashore every so often for nesting or molting season.
Penguins are generally not a regular part of the diet for sharks, but there have been cases reported where they have been eaten. In order to survive, sharks will consume whatever prey they can find, so while it is not common, they do occasionally feed on penguins when the opportunity arises.
Penguins are small and relatively low in fat and protein content compared to larger fish, making them an unattractive food source for most sharks.
Sharks typically go after more fat-rich and protein-filled meals like seals, sea lions, and other large fish species. Because of their size and low nutritional value, penguins are usually overlooked by most predatory sharks when searching for food sources.
However, if a shark is hunting in a region known for having populations of birds and fish, it may be possible to target a penguin as well if the opportunity presents itself.
So, now you know that sharks eat penguins, but it is not a regular part of their diet. Penguins are much smaller than other prey species and have low nutritional value, so sharks usually overlook them when searching for food.
However, if the opportunity arises, some shark species may still choose to target penguins as a source of food.