The octopus is one of the most fascinating creatures to inhabit our oceans, while many consider sharks the most fearsome. With their terrible reputation, it probably won’t be a surprise for you to learn that the answer to the question “do sharks eat octopus” is yes, some do.
Octopuses are an intelligent animal so are not the easiest things for a shark to eat. However, they can provide lunch for many shark species under the right circumstances.
We’re going to see that sharks don’t have it all their way and that there are some octopuses that can turn the tables and enjoy a shark dinner.
Do Sharks Eat Octopus?
Anyone who has seen the fantastic Netflix movie My Octopus Teacher will know that some sharks will eat octopuses given a chance. After all, one of the film’s most memorable scenes is where a pyjama shark (Poroderma africanum) is shown attacking the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) star.
There are more than 500 species of shark, and without a doubt, not all of them eat octopus. In addition, octopuses are not the easiest things to catch. However, some sharks are pretty adept at dealing with their tendency to hide amongst rocks and coral.
Any shark that wants to enjoy a meal of this soft-bodied, eight-limbed mollusk should be ready for a battle.
Once they’ve managed to defeat its camouflage and find the octopus, the shark will have to track the animal as it shrinks into the sea bed, face being squirted with defensive ink, defeat the eight legs attempting to block its gills, and avoid venomous bites from the beak.
Sharks have been observed violently thrashing their bodies with their face apparently wedged into the seafloor as they attempt to swallow an octopus whole.
Even after being eaten, the octopus doesn’t give up, and a last gasp of ink is usually seen emanating from the gills of the shark as it swims away.
What Type of Octopus Do Sharks Eat?
There are over 200 different species of octopus, and they can be found in numerous parts of the ocean, including coral reefs, shallow tropical waters, temperate sea beds, open oceanic waters, tidal zones, and even the depths of the Mariana trench.
This means that there are many potential options for a lucky shark to make a meal from.
By far, the octopus most frequently eaten by sharks will be the common octopus. This octopus is the common species most often found in the areas likely to be inhabited by interested sharks. It is also large enough to make a reasonable and worthwhile meal.
More famous small octopuses, such as the blue-ringed octopuses (genus Hapalochlaena), are unlikely to be eaten by sharks.
Not only are they highly poisonous, but like most octopuses, their small size means they would be challenging to catch.
Do Sharks Eat Squids?
Squids, like octopuses, are cephalopods. While they also have eight arms, squids have distinct, longer bodies and tend to spend their time hunting in open water.
Squid make up a vital part of many sharks’ diets. Sharks that eat squid include:
- Tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier).
- Scalloped and smooth hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini and Sphyrna zygaena).
- Blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus).
- Dusky sharks (Carcharhinus obscurus).
- Thresher sharks (Alopiidae family).
But do sharks eat squid and octopus? Yes, they do. One example of a shark that enjoys both is the blue shark (Prionace glauca).
Squid makes up a large part of its diet, but given a chance, it will also eat pelagic octopuses and cuttlefish, smaller fish, crustaceans, and sea birds.
What Kind of Sharks Eat Octopuses?
There are many species of sharks that will eat octopuses. The most common will be the sharks that spend their time on or around coral reefs or the ocean floor, making them most likely to come across and catch octopuses.
These benthic sharks might include:
- Carpet sharks (Hemiscylliidae)
- Bullhead sharks (Heterodontiformes)
- Hound Sharks (Triakidae)
- Horn sharks (Heterodontus francisci)
- Angel sharks (Squatinidae)
In addition, juveniles of many other sharks that might not eat octopus as adults may also feed on them.
Do Reef Sharks Eat Octopus?
Yes, the octopus will feature in the diets of most reef sharks, including:
- Blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus).
- Whitetip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus).
- Gray reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos).
- Tawny nurse sharks (Nebrius ferrugineus).
Do Dogfish Sharks Eat Octopus
Dogfish sharks (Squalidae) are a family of 119 species, and many of these will eat octopuses if given a chance.
Their primary diet is fish, including mackerel and herring, but they will also eat squid, jellyfish, and octopus.
The pyjama shark that we’ve already mentioned from the My Octopus Teacher film is often mistaken for a dogfish, but it is actually a catshark (family Scyliorhinidae). These are also bottom feeders, and as we know, they will very happily eat octopus.
What Sharks Don’t Eat Octopus?
The most obvious shark that doesn’t eat octopus is the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). Whale sharks are a filter-feeding pelagic shark that eats planktonic organisms.
Similarly, the other filter-feeding sharks, the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and the megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios), do not eat octopuses (unless an unlucky octopus larva is in the plankton soup).
Larger pelagic sharks are unlikely to eat octopus often, if at all, as they won’t come across them very often in open water. So if you are wondering do great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) eat octopus, the answer is probably no as adults.
The regular diet of a great white shark is made up of fish, fat-rich dolphins, porpoises and whales, seals, sea lions, sea turtles, sea otters, and seabirds.
However, juvenile great white sharks are known to eat from the bottom and so may manage to catch the occasional octopus.
The answer to do tiger sharks eat octopus is “possibly.” Tiger sharks are large sharks well known for eating pretty much anything. It is certainly possible that a younger tiger shark, in particular, would eat an octopus.
Do Octopus Eat Sharks?
Impressively some octopuses can eat smaller sharks. Octopus are often ambush feeders and will lay in wait for a suitable meal to come by. They may also actively seek out food by hunting it and cornering it amongst coral or rocks.
So, how do octopus eat sharks? Most octopuses hunt at night, and they will pounce on their food, wrapping their eight legs around it.
An octopus’s beak can break hard shells, so it has no problem penetrating a shark’s skin. Different species of octopus have different levels of venom toxicity, but this will quickly stun the unlucky shark if it is small.
Octopus have also been seen to put their legs into the gills of sharks, making it difficult for them to breathe while attacking them. Eventually, the octopus will suffocate the shark before slowly eating it.
So, can an octopus kill a shark? The answer is yes. If the shark is small enough and the octopus is large enough!
Do Giant Pacific Octopus Eat Sharks?
The most successful shark-eating octopus is the giant pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini).
Giant pacific octopuses are huge beasts found along the coastal North Pacific and are the largest known octopus species. The largest ever caught weighed an impressive 71 kilograms / 156 pounds.
The giant pacific octopus is one of the few that is large enough to catch and eat fish and smaller sharks regularly.
Its arms can reach up to 1.8 meters / 6 feet in length, and each one can have as many as 280 suckers. This is a serious creature!
Great pacific octopuses hunt at night and are known to have excellent eyesight. They eat crabs, shrimp, lobsters, fish, other octopuses, and sharks.
A captive great pacific octopus was filmed capturing and eating a spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) over 1.2 meters / 4 feet long in the Seattle aquarium.
In addition, wild-caught specimens have been found with the remains of shark species in their stomachs.
Who Eats Octopus in the Ocean? (Besides Sharks)
The list of predators that eat octopuses includes most ocean predators. Marine life including sperm whales, sea otters, seals, sea lions, sea birds, dolphins, sea turtles, larger fish, and moray eels will all feed on the unlucky octopus.
It is even known for some larger octopuses to eat smaller ones or for an octopus to be mortally injured fighting for territory with their same species.
Scientists have studied dolphins seemingly playing with octopuses that they have captured. This could be the dolphin’s way of enjoying themselves, or simply the dolphin stunning or weakening the octopus to make it easier to eat.
We’ve seen that the answer to do sharks eat octopus is a definite yes. Many bottom-dwelling sharks, as well as the juveniles of larger pelagic sharks, will eat octopus.
However, it doesn’t all go in the shark’s way as larger octopuses, including the giant pacific octopus, are able to catch and eat sharks and enjoy them as an exciting and filling meal.
British-born Dan has been a scuba instructor and guide in Egypt’s Red Sea since 2010.
Dan loves inspiring safe, fun, and environmentally responsible diving and particularly enjoys the opportunity to dive with sharks or investigate local shipwrecks.
When not spending time underwater, Dan can usually be found biking and hiking in Sharm’s desert surroundings.