The ocean is home to many incredible creatures like dolphins and sharks. However, it can be hard to see what goes on beneath the waves. That’s why we are going to use science and a little educated guesswork to figure out what would happen in a shark vs dolphin fight.
Now, you might be wondering what version of the creatures we are going to use in this mock fight. The safest bet would be to use the most iconic version of each creature. Although orcas are considered dolphins, most people imagine bottlenose dolphins when thinking of those mammals
We’re going to pit that dolphin against the great white shark, the most iconic of these fish.
Take a look at a comparison between the creatures and learn how they would battle each other.
Comparing a Shark vs Dolphins
|Size||Weight: 0.5 – 1.2 tons |
Length: 11ft – 21ft
|Weight: 200-600lbs |
|Speed and Movement Type||– 20mph – 35mph |
– Uses an undulating, side-to-side motion from the tail and body.
|– 6mph-20mph |
– Use an up-and-down motion from their tails to propel themselves through the waves.
|Bite Power and Teeth||– 4,000 PSI |
-About 50 teeth are available to bite in the first row, but 300 teeth overall – Teeth 4-6 inches long
|Less than 500 PSI bite power (unmeasured) |
– 80-100 teeth
– Sharp, conical teeth meant for severing flesh
|Senses||– Good vision with sharp focus and night vision|
– Great whites hear low frequencies, but it’s not their best sense
– Incredible smell for substances at 1 part per 10 billion parts of water
– Possess ampullae of Lorenzini to detect electrical fields
|– Great sense of hearing in the water – Good sense of vision, both in and out of the water|
– No sense of smell
– Profound echolocation can help them identify other dolphins and enemies.
|Defenses||– Large size |
– Bursts of swim speed
|– Swim speed |
– Massive pod size
|Offensive Capabilities||– Massive biting power |
– Long, triangular teeth
– Fast swim speed
|– Bites that leave severe cuts |
– Ramming with snout
|Predatory Behavior||– Relies on stealth and ambush to attack||– High intelligence |
– Will chase prey and eat them, even in groups.
The Key Factors in a Fight Between a Shark vs Dolphins
Not every detail matters in a fight between a shark vs dolphins. We have distilled a list of meaningful factors that would come into play in this battle, including their physical features and the way they fight off enemies. We’ll show you which creature has the edge in each section!
Physical Features of a Shark and a Dolphin
Much of the battle between a shark vs dolphins is decided before the fight even starts. Each creature’s size, speed, and senses give them the powers they need to initiate a fight, avoid enemies, and ward off threats. Take a look at the physical features of a shark and dolphin and learn about which one is the most threatening.
Shark vs Dolphins: Size
Sharks are vast, deadly creatures. Sharks can weigh over a 1,000lbs and grow 21ft long. The great white shark is the largest shark that’s a predator and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds. Dolphins weigh up to 600lbs and can grow to 13ft in length. The largest dolphin species (excluding killer whales) are pilot whales, which can also grow up to 5,000 pounds. However, an average great white shark weighs more than an average bottlenose dolphin.
Sharks are larger than dolphins and have an advantage in terms of size.
Shark vs Dolphins: Speed and Movement
Dolphins need to move quickly to catch their prey, so they can reach burst speeds of 20mph in the right circumstances. Sharks are also very fast fish. They move at speeds between 20mph and 35mph. They use an undulating, side-to-side motion of their tail and body.
Sharks are much faster than dolphins at top speed.
Shark vs Dolphins: Bite Power and Teeth
Dolphins and sharks both use their teeth to attack prey. Sharks have a tremendous bite. In fact, they have one of the strongest measured bites on the planet today at 4,000PSI or more. Their teeth are up to 6 inches long, and they have 300 flesh-tearing teeth in all.
Dolphins have up to 268 sharp teeth used to tear flesh from their prey, but their bite power is very low compared to other prey.
Sharks have a much more powerful bite and far deadlier teeth than dolphins.
Shark vs Dolphins: Senses
Dolphins have an amazing sense of hearing, decent vision, and the ability to utilize echolocation that detects other creatures with amazing precision.
Sharks also have powerful senses. They have good vision, even in low-light situations. Their sense of smell is profound, capable of detecting 1 part per 10 billion parts of substance in water. Sharks can also detect electrical fields with their specialized ampullae of Lorenzini.
In short, sharks are more sensitive to the world around them than dolphins.
Shark vs Dolphins: Physical Defenses
Dolphins swim in pods, and that can keep them safe. However, in an individual setting, their agility and speed can keep them safe from some predators. Sharks have massive bodies and bursts of speed to keep them safe.
Sharks have better defenses than dolphins.
Combat Skills of a Shark and a Dolphin
Dolphins are effective killers when hunting for food. They will use their pod to group up fish and then swim through the mass to eat. Dolphins can use their snout to attack enemies, but that is not very effective at killing larger fish.
Sharks are pursuit predators that speed after and kill their enemies in a vicious assault. They typically sense prey and then check what the creature is to make sure that it’s edible. Then they strike for real. They clamp down with all their power and thrash until large chunks are broken off and swallowed.
Sharks are far more effective fighters.
What Are Key Differences Between a Shark and a Dolphin?
Although they both live in the water, dolphins are mammals and sharks are cartilaginous fish. Sharks are heavier, longer, and more deadly than dolphins. Sharks tend to be more independent than dolphins which live in pods that can include over 1,000 members!
While they are smart in their own right, sharks are not nearly as intelligent as dolphins, but they are much more effective predators.
Who Would Win in a Fight Between a Shark and a Dolphin?
A shark would win in a fight against a dolphin. They are faster, larger, and more attuned to predation than others. Furthermore, their mouths are actually large enough to bite down on a dolphin and deal fatal damage. Dolphins, while smart, lack the physical capabilities to fend off an attack by a shark and could not do enough damage to kill a shark alone.
Granted, if we included orcas in this evaluation, the fight would be different. However, a bottlenose dolphin simply does not stand a chance against a great white shark.
The shark would probably sense the dolphin first unless the dolphin was using echolocation. From then on, the shark would be on the hunt until it gets close enough to land a bite. It would only take one or two bites for the shark to do enough damage that the dolphin would be completely incapacitated.
The thrashing, tearing bites of the shark would completely tear open the dolphin, leaving it to die in minutes. Dolphins are smart, though. Their best bet is to actively avoid sharks whenever possible.
What Animal Can Take Down a Shark?
Quite simply put, it would take the dolphins’ bigger cousin to give a shark pause. Moreso since orcas are the only predators which enjoy hunting sharks. As a matter of fact, only recently, 20 sharks were seen washed up on a beach in South Africa. They had been hunted by orcas for their livers which are for the cetaceans an excellent source of oily and nutritious goodness.
Measured up against the largest shark of all, the great white, an individual orca presents a maximum weight potential of 13,220 lbs, against 4,410 lbs. It would also bring an immense bite force of 19,000 psi as opposed to the great white’s 4,000 psi, and almost five times the value of the latter.
The orca would also bring its formidable intelligence as well as tried and tested methods such as the famed “karate chop” which involves its striking the shark with its tail in a vertical motion.
And given the fact that orcas are highly social creatures, the great white would have more than one predator to worry about. An ordeal which it would be fortunate to escape from.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/BWFolsom
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