Deep Sea Battles: Can the World’s Most Poisonous Pufferfish Take Down a Killer Whale?

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: September 12, 2023
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One has the most powerful poison in the world while the other relies on its size and buddies. But in a deep sea battle between the two, which animal wins? Can the world’s most poisonous pufferfish take down a killer whale? Let’s find out!

Comparing a Poisonous Pufferfish vs. a Killer Whale

Poisonous PufferfishKiller Whale
SizeUp to three feet long and can weigh up to 30 poundsUp to 32 feet long and over 20,000 pounds
Speed and MovementSlow swimmers but can speed up as neededUp to 35 miles per hour
DefensesPuffing up, sharp spines sometimes, and toxicEcholocation, size, and social groups
Offensive CapabilitiesSharp teeth, toxic spinesTeeth for attacking and 19,000 PSI bite force
Predatory BehaviorAmbushing while hunting, biting prey with sharp teethEcholocation, use of the tail as a weapon, and intentional beaching

What Are the Key Differences Between a Pufferfish and a Killer Whale?

The first difference you notice when considering a pufferfish and a killer whale is the massive size difference. However, that’s not the only thing that’s different between the two. Although they both live in the ocean, the pufferfish is toxic whereas the killer whale is not. Pufferfish are rather slow swimmers, but killer whales can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour in the water.

What Are the Key Factors in a Fight Between a Pufferfish and a Killer Whale?

When considering a fight between a pufferfish and a killer whale, it’s hard to imagine that there would be much of one. However, there are some key factors that come into play when hypothesizing the outcome of such an encounter.

Yellowspotted Pufferfish puffed up to defend itself.

Pufferfish puff up when it’s time to defend themselves.

©Rich Carey/Shutterstock.com

Killer whales aren’t particularly interested in pufferfish and because they’re so much larger, they may not even notice one if it were to approach. However, killer whales do use echolocation and gather in social groups, which makes it unlikely that a pufferfish would want to square up with a killer whale. Other key factors include how they hunt, how they attack, and how they defend themselves.

Pufferfish vs. a Killer Whale: Size

You might want to tell a killer whale to pick on somebody its own size if it were to start a fight with a pufferfish. A pufferfish looks like a single snack for a killer whale. It’s like popping a piece of popcorn into your mouth. However, this isn’t just any snack. It’s a toxic one so despite the size, there are other key factors to review.

orca

A killer whale definitely has the size advantage reaching up to 32 feet in length and weighing over 20,000 pounds.

©slowmotiongli/Shutterstock.com

Pufferfish vs. a Killer Whale: Speed and Movement

A killer whale moves quickly in the water, reaching speeds of over 30 miles per hour. A poisonous pufferfish relies on its poison and doesn’t move that swiftly in the water. It’s kind of clumsy when it moves but if it does need to get away, it can definitely pick up the speed. It doesn’t swim nearly as fast as a killer whale, but it gets by in the water.

Pufferfish vs. a Killer Whale: Defenses

The poisonous pufferfish’s defense is ultimately what makes it small but mighty in the ocean. If it feels threatened, it immediately pops up into a ball-like shape. Sometimes these puffer fish have sharp spines that are toxic. Coming into contact with a puffer fish means that the toxic substance called tetrodotoxin is released.

killer whales jumping out of water

Killer whales spend their time together, swimming in pods.

©slowmotiongli/Shutterstock.com

Depending on the size of the animal that touches the pufferfish, even a small amount could be deadly. A killer whale, on the other hand, relies on echolocation to understand its surroundings, on its social groups for strength in numbers, and on its sheer size.

Pufferfish vs. a Killer Whale: Offensive Capabilities

Both pufferfish and killer whales hunt and pufferfish have the advantage of their toxic spines. They also use their sharp teeth to debilitate their prey and crunch through them. Killer whales also have teeth to attack with along with an incredibly strong bite force.

pufferfish inflated

Some pufferfish have sharp spines that are toxic.

©iStock.com/FtLaudGirl

Pufferfish vs. a Killer Whale: Predatory Behavior

When hunting, pufferfish prefer to ambush their prey and use their sharp teeth to sever and then savor them. Killer whales get a bit more violent, weaponizing their tails and smacking their prey to incapacitate them, making it easier for them to swallow them up.

Who Would Win in a Fight Between a Pufferfish and a Killer Whale?

In a fight between a pufferfish and a killer whale, a killer whale would certainly win. There wouldn’t be much of a fight, to be honest. A killer whale could easily smack a puffer fish with its strong tail, rendering it lifeless and getting a little poison in the process. But the reality is that a killer whale is so massive that even if it eats the pufferfish, the toxin released by the poisonous pufferfish would give it a stomachache at worst. But it wouldn’t be able to severely hurt it.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©


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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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