When it comes to who is the better predator in the ocean “the killer whale or the great white shark” there are several factors that influence their ability to hunt, attack and survive when competing against one another.
Both marine animals are known to have teeth and use their teeth to grab their prey and tear its flesh apart.
Although these marine animals share some characteristics they are very different when it comes to their anatomical features and hunting methods.
To give you a quick overview of the different advantages of each species we’ll take a quick look at what makes them unique predators.
Great white shark advantages
When it comes to dominating the ocean the great white has several advantages/senses that can be used to locate prey, identify potential predators and avoid being attacked by diving well below the oceans surface.
Some of these advantages include:
- Acute sense of smell – Sharks such as the great white shark are known for their ability to smell small quantities of blood in the ocean of long distances. In fact the great white is able to detect a single drop of blood in an Olympic sized pool.Their sense of smell is also directional allowing these sharks to detect the direction that the odor is coming from.
- Ability to sense electrical signals – These sharks are also able to detect electrical signals in the ocean that come from other living animals and since all living creatures give off an electrical signal these marine animals are very good at identifying nearby prey.The extent of this ability is believed to vary from one species to the next however therefore their reliance on using electrical signals may/may not be a significant advantage.
- Ability to sense vibrations – In addition to detecting electrical signals great white sharks can detect slight vibrations or current changes in the water alerting them to possible movements from prey.This advantage (combined with reading electric signals) can be used to spot prey that is attempting to camouflage itself in the environment.
- Gills and deep diving– There is also the fact that sharks do not need oxygen in order to survive so they can stay submerged indefinitely underwater and at great depths.In fact it is estimated that the great white can reach depths of around 4,000 ft. which is significantly deeper than the killer whales diving range.
As you can see the great white shark does have some interesting advantages over the killer whale in terms of their senses and ability to remain at depths that are inaccessible.
By using these various senses great white sharks have an advantage over most other marine animals in the ocean and are therefore considered one of the best known aquatic predators alive today.
Killer whale advantages
You could say that the killer whale is considered the apex predator within their diving range.
In fact the killer whale has several abilities that help them locate prey, coordinate hunting strategies and minimize their own injures.
Some of the abilities these marine mammals possess include:
- Highly developed echolocation – Killer whales are known for their excellent echolocation abilities which allow them to detect the size, direction, speed, density and movement of various objects in the ocean.Since echolocation relies on sound killer whales can use this sense to hunt for food, avoid predators and navigate the ocean in areas that are absent of light.
- Size and speed advantage – When it comes to size and speed killer whales can grow to be twice as large as a great white shark and can reach speeds of 50% – 100% faster than the great white for short bursts allowing them to surprise and quickly reach their prey before it can escape.
- Strategic group hunting – Killer whales are also known to hunt in strategic groups that allow them to be more effective at hunting their prey than great whites which often hunt alone.
By hunting in groups killer whales are able to surprise, isolate, and attack their prey from multiple angles.
This advantage allows killer whales to outsmart and out power most of their prey making them one of the most dominant predators within their habitat.
Who is the better predator?
When it comes to the battle between killer whales and great white sharks the killer whale is the clear winner for a number of reasons.
First their large size and ability to out run their prey (at least for short bursts) allows killer whales to both surprise their prey and flee from potential attacks before the great white can react appropriately.
Second the killer whales echolocation abilities have a far greater range than the sharks ability to detect electrical impulses giving the killer whale an advantage in terms of early detection.
Third killer whales hunt in large groups and use team oriented hunting strategies.
Unlike the great white killer whales are able to isolate their prey from multiple angles and will work together to distract their prey while another killer whale sneaks up from behind or below to stun and immobilize the defensive shark.
Although great white sharks are quite impressive they often hunt using their brute force and large size.
They aren’t able to form cohesive hunting parties the way killer whales are able which not only leaves them exposed to group attacks but also makes it harder to isolate their prey.
These disadvantages make the great white much less effective than their killer whale opponents when it comes to successfully hunting one another and defending themselves against attacks from the opposition.
While this article talks about the advantages and disadvantages of these two animals it is important to note that there are a number of real life factual cases where killer whales have been observed hunting and killing great white sharks.
This article isn’t just about plausible assumptions as the killer whale does truly hunt sharks for food and game.
When it comes to hunting the great white these cases usually consist of a group of killer whales ambushing or distracting the great white and either ramming it or flipping it over on its back to immobilize the shark.
They may also take turns biting the fins of the shark and/or force it towards the surface while swimming below it in order to prevent the shark from escaping.
By working in greater numbers and acting strategically the killer whale is able to easily capture their prey while avoiding injury.
Because great whites don’t work as a team and are both smaller and slower than the killer whale they are at a huge disadvantage that leaves them wide open for attack.
Part of the reason the great white is often immortalized as the greatest predator is because of the fact that they are quite effective hunters, but perhaps it has to due with the fact that they are often the sharks most known for attacking humans.
Their notoriety, large size and ferocious behavior make them one of the most popular predators in the ocean, aside from the killer whale.
In addition to hunting sharks such as the great white killer whales have also been observed attacking other species of shark such as the mako shark and tiger shark.
Although the killer whale is an apex predator it does have one downfall that may prevent it from completely dominating the ocean and that has to do with its limited diving range and requirement for air which prevents it from hunting deep diving sharks and ocean animals.
Numerous species of shark are known to inhibit depths well below the killer whales grasp.
In fact as stated earlier the great white can reach depths of around 4,000 ft. which is several times the depth the killer whale can swim.