Shark vs Dolphin: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Published: January 8, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/BWFolsom
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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 and a Dolphin

Shark vs dolphin
Sharks are bigger, stronger, and more vicious than dolphins.

A-Z-Animals.com

SharkDolphin
SizeWeight: 0.5 – 1.2 tons
Length: 11ft – 21ft
Weight: 200-600lbs
Length: 6ft-13ft
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 Teeth4,000 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 and a Dolphin

Animals that build things like humans – dolphin
The key elements of a shark vs dolphin fight would include speed, size, and hunting ability.

Irina No/Shutterstock.com

Not every detail matters in a fight between a shark and a dolphin. 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

Deadliest Animals in America
Sharks can grow 21ft long and weigh over 1,000lbs.

iStock.com/Peter_Nile

Much of the battle between a shark and a dolphin 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 Dolphin: 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 Dolphin: 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 Dolphin: 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 Dolphin: 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 Dolphin: 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

What Do Great White Sharks Eat?
Sharks use their speed to catch up to enemies and their powerful bites to kill them.

iStock.com/Alessandro De Maddalena

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?

bottlenose dolphin jumping out of the water
Dolphins are mammals and sharks are fish.

Tory Kallman/Shutterstock.com

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?

Shark Eyes: Great White Shark Eye
A shark would win in a fight against a dolphin.

iStock.com/Alessandro De Maddalena

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.

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About the Author

I am a freelancer specializing in SEO content writing. I write in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I've been writing full-time since 2018, so I've been doing remote work before it was cool. When I'm not working, I can be found reading, trying to catch up on my tv show backlog, playing video games, and starting stories that I'll never finish.