The ocean has historically been the home of some of the most fearsome creatures to have ever lived. Some of those creatures are only visible to us via the fossil record, but some of those creatures are still alive today. What would happen if the top predator in the ocean were to encounter the top predator from an ancient era? Well, that’s what we are here to answer! Today, we are going to compare two creatures and discover the winner should there be an epic battle. Let’s find out: megalodon vs. killer whale pod, which would win in a fight?
The Largest Shark in History vs. A Pod of Killer Whales: The Ground Rules
The largest shark in history is quite famous: megalodon. Megalodon is far and away the largest shark to have ever lived, with its name directly translating to “big tooth.” The teeth in megalodon’s mouth were, assuredly, quite big. Megalodon is extinct, but it lived from 23 to 3.6 million years ago. As it stands, megalodon was one of the most powerful predators to have ever lived.
On the more recent side of things, killer whales (orcas) are the apex predators of the ocean today. Often referred to as the “wolves” of the ocean, orcas hunt as a pack and regularly take down the most formidable creatures alive today. Their prey includes great white sharks, whales, and more.
We know that a single orca wouldn’t stand a chance against a megalodon, but what about a pod? Today, we are going to answer it, once and for all. Here are the ground rules:
- The setting is in the open ocean with nowhere to run or hide
- The fight is to the death
- When assumptions are made, the most reasonable or average assumption will be used
Let’s get started!
Megalodon vs. Killer Whale Pod: Size
As a singular animal, megalodon was massive. All of the recreations that scientists have made are estimates (since we can’t measure a living one), but they were huge, nonetheless. The most recent (and presumably accurate) measurement places megalodon at around 66 feet long at a maximum. In regards to weight, a 66-foot individual would likely have weighed 114 short tons, or around 228,000 pounds. For reference, a large school bus weighs between 10,000 to 25,000 pounds. These sharks were huge.
A killer whale is one of the largest creatures in the ocean, although they aren’t individually as large as megalodon. On average, an orca weighs between 6,600 and 8,800 pounds, or about 1/27th the size of megalodon. When orcas form a pod, there are usually five to 30 individuals. For our purposes, we are going to assume something in the middle, around 18 orcas in total. With an average weight of 7,500 pounds, the total weight of the orca pod is around 135,000 pounds. This is formidable but still smaller than a large megalodon.
Megalodon vs. Killer Whale Pod: Speed
There has been a lot of data collected on how fast megalodon could have moved, but the answer is a bit unclear. Megalodon would have had a faster cruising speed than any shark alive today, around 3.1 mph, but that is much different than a maximum speed. Some references show that, if it was built like a great white, megalodon would have been able to travel at 35 mph in short bursts.
Killer whales are nimble creatures. They have a top speed of 35 mph, similar to that of a great white. Still, orcas are regularly seen hunting and killing great whites, showing that they are much more agile and nimble than a shark. Despite having a similar top speed, the killer whale is likely quicker and more agile than any megalodon.
Winner: Killer whale
Megalodon vs. Killer Whale Pod: Intelligence
Megalodon was a big animal, but sharks aren’t really known for their intelligence. They are ancient creatures that have a history that goes back to before trees were around, but as a general rule, intelligence wasn’t high on the evolutionary list back then! That isn’t to say sharks are dumb, but they simply can’t compete when compared to creatures known for their intelligence, like the killer whale.
Orcas aren’t just smart. They may be among the smartest creatures in the entire world. These members of the dolphin family have complex social skills, the ability to problem solve, a level of self-awareness that is extremely uncommon in the animal world, and the ability to work as a team while hunting. Orcas can be playful, vengeful, and extremely curious. They take the cake when it comes to a battle of the brains.
Winner: Killer whale
Megalodon vs. Killer Whale Pod: Special Adaptations
Megalodon wasn’t the apex predator in the ocean for millions of years for no reason! It had some serious adaptations that made it one of the deadliest creatures ever to live. First, the teeth of megalodon were likely around 7 inches and adapted for large fleshy prey like dolphins and whales. Even more, the bite force of megalodon is estimated to have been around 40,000 PSI. For reference, crocodiles have a bite force of around 3,700 PSI. Another adaptation that megalodon had, along with other sharks, is cartilage. Sharks are cartilaginous fish, meaning their skeletons are comprised of cartilage, not bone. This gives their skin an extremely tough and abrasive outer layer that is resistant to injury.
Killer whales are the current kings of the ocean, just for different reasons than megalodon. Orcas are strong and fast, but their real advantage comes from their strategy and intelligence. Where a shark sees prey and simply chases it, orcas will hunt it down like a wolf pack on a moose. They are known to surround their prey and slowly gain an advantage before finally killing their victim. Even more, orcas that hunt great whites will intentionally flip them over, paralyzing them so that they can eat the liver inside the shark. Aside from brains, orcas have sharp teeth and have been known to take prey as large as an adult blue whale.
Megalodon vs. Killer Whale Pod: Final Result
Of the many epic battles that we’ve written about, this one may be the toughest! Here’s how we think the battle would play out:
In the open ocean, the pod of 18 orcas would have the initial advantage. They would be able to surround the megalodon without it being able to do much. Like wolves surrounding a deer, they would surround megalodon, not allowing it to break free from the ring.
Once megalodon has been surrounded, the killer whales know what to do. While one distracts the shark, another goes in and bites at the beast. Initially, these attacks wouldn’t do enough to harm the shark, but a battle with megalodon would be one of a thousand cuts. Hour after hour of small bite after small bite, the orcas would slowly whittle megalodon down. Still, if there were a single mistake, megalodon would easily dispatch the orca in a single bite, but another would always be there to take its place.
The battle could last hours or even days, but eventually, the slow and deliberate attack of the smarter animal would win out. It wouldn’t be an epic clash, but a slow and methodical killing of a predator that outmatches the group in every other way.
Just like a pod of orcas attacking a blue whale today, they have the experience and knowledge to attack megalodon in a similar way. Ultimately, we give the victory to the orcas 7/10 times. On the rare occasion that they would slip up, megalodon would have no problems killing enough of the orcas for them to be forced to retreat or die.
Who Could Beat the Killer Whale?
The killer whale is one of the most powerful and feared predators in the ocean, with its impressive size and strength. But some animals could potentially win against a killer whale in battle.
For land-based animals, creatures like elephants and rhinos have been known to fight back against animal attacks when threatened. Bears can be fierce opponents as well, using their sharp claws and teeth to defend themselves against an attack. Other carnivorous mammals, such as lions and tigers, may also have a chance of overpowering a killer whale if they were to face off in battle.
In the water, larger sharks such as great whites, bull sharks, or tiger sharks might stand a chance at winning against a killer whale due to their size advantage over orcas. Additionally, pod species like dolphins or pilot whales may coordinate together in order to outmaneuver an attacking orca by staying on the move so it cannot focus on any individual animal for too long.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.