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Sharks are often viewed as one of the ocean’s top apex predators, but despite this rather prestigious classification, there is one marine animal that most sharks prefer to avoid crossing paths with entirely: the bottlenose dolphin! Most people may view the bottlenose dolphin as a humble and gentle marine mammal, but it is a widely known fact that these creatures can be aggressive when they want to be – especially when congregating in large numbers, often called a pod. Sharks are vaguely aware of this, as even these ocean-dwelling predators can fall victim to a pod of dolphins’ foul behaviour when they are swimming around by their lonesome.
Sharks can be easily outmanoeuvred by dolphins in a one-on-one fight, particularly because of the characteristics surrounding their physical build. A dolphin’s vertically-oriented rear fin coupled with its incredible flexibility provides it with heightened mobility. Comparatively, sharks have horizontally-oriented rear fins, and are not nearly as flexible, which puts them at a severe disadvantage when facing a pod of dolphins. Another advantage that the bottlenose dolphin has over the shark is its snout, which is stout enough to be used as a battering ram in the event that a pod of dolphins needs to protect itself from a shark. Dolphins can use their snout to land a well-placed hit on a shark’s belly to cause internal damage, or its gills to prevent it from breathing entirely. As you might come to expect, this can be fatal for the shark.
Many sharks are fortunate enough to get away by simply fleeing from the fight when they realize they are in danger, but if the shark is bold enough to stand its ground, then the dolphins just might prove why they’re the dominant creatures of the sea.
Flexibility gives dolphins the upper fin: Dolphins have some advantages over sharks due to the way their bodies are built. A combination of soft skin and flexible skeletal joints make it easier for dolphins to manoeuvre quickly in a fight against their cartilage-filled counterparts.
Tail of two species: The vertical plane of shark tails limits their upward and downward mobility while the horizontal plane of dolphin tails allows for great agility and directional change for quick attacks.
More than peas in a pod: Sharks are solitary predators, whereas dolphins travel in groups called pods. Whenever a member of the group is in danger from a shark, the rest of the pod rushes in to defend their buddy. Dolphins have even been known to protect humans in danger of sharks. There just need to be two of three of them and sharks will prefer to stay away instead of clashing with them
When you mess with the dolphin, you get the snout: Made of very strong and thick bone, dolphin snouts act as biological battering rams. Dolphins will position themselves several yards under a shark and burst upwards jabbing their snout into the soft underbelly of the shark causing serious internal injuries.
Apex prey: There are one species of dolphins in particular that scare sharks the most- it is the killer whale. They are the biggest representative of dolphins and they hunt for sharks when they do not have enough food. Orcas are the largest member of the dolphin family and have been known to hunt great white sharks when food is scarce.
Full-time orcas, part-time shark tamers: Proving a basic knowledge of shark biology, orcas use their immensely strong tail fins to flip sharks on their back, rendering them immobile. After that, it is a docile buffet for the orcas. This is why white sharks prefer to flee from killer whales immediately as the latter is especially interested in eating their liver. With extreme precision, the killer whale takes out their liver and throw away the rest of the body. No wonder sharks are afraid of them.
Baby dolphins and big consequences: Sharks have a taste for anything smaller than themselves, which includes vulnerable baby dolphins. When a shark chooses to attack a baby dolphin, they also choose to be attacked by a pod of angry dolphins.
Sharks’ vs dolphins is a classic battle of brawns vs brains. Dolphins' biggest advantage over sharks' strength is their intelligence. Using echolocation, dolphins can quickly navigate through the water to avoid or attack sharks. Known to be stealthy hunters, sharks' best chance to take down a dolphin is when it is unaware or in a blind spot. However, if the first attempt is not successful, the dolphin can easily escape or regroup to combat the shark with the rest of the pod. To complement their superior intelligence dolphins are incredibly fast. They can swim faster than most shark species making them hard to catch and not worth the chase.
Most would agree that sharks are at the top of the food chain, especially the greatly feared great white shark. But sharks have not taken over the oceans, so there must be some checks and balances in nature that keep their species in check. Let us find out!
Great White sharks are very aggressive animals and will attack other animals like seals, sea lions and dolphins, but they will also attack humans. In fact, there have been more shark attacks recorded from great whites than any other shark species. But, the Great White sharks are not the biggest shark in the sea. Whale sharks are much bigger with some getting to be 15 tons and over 40 feet long! That is more than twice as big as great whites. They also have around 3,000 teeth! However, there is a huge difference between the two. Great white sharks are very aggressive and whale sharks are the complete opposite. Whale sharks are filter feeders and gracefully glide through the ocean, enjoying life, with their mouths wide open filtering out the nutrients from plankton. That is very different than the great white!
National Geographic had a show called Cannibal Sharks that showcases how sharks attack each other more often than we thought. Great whites with evidence of bites from other sharks can be seen in the wild and sharks are capable of killing one another. There is impressive footage of a shark-on-shark attack filmed by Adam Malski from Sydney, Australia in 2014. It shows one shark attacking another and taking an enormous bite out of its side! The main reason sharks kill each other is for food. They are just another source of prey. Larger sharks will prey on smaller sharks and often kill and eat them.
Do humans eat sharks? How do they kill them?
Humans are by far the number one threat to sharks. Researchers have found that humans kill an average of 100 million sharks a year! Most of this is through shark fishing, while some is from ship hits where medium to large ships crash into sharks and kill them. Whales are more often victims of ship hits, but it occurs to sharks, dolphins, and killer whales as well. For fishing, there are several fishing techniques including using giant purse seine nets and longlines. In the US sport fishing is popular, you can take a shark fishing tour off the coast of Florida and California. The worst way to hunt sharks is called finning. This is a process of cutting off a shark’s fins and then releasing them back into the water to bleed out. Shark fins are used in shark fin soup which is a delicacy and status symbol in countries like China. The fins are also believed to have medicinal properties so fishermen are drawn to killing more sharks because it is so profitable. The scalloped hammerhead and smooth hammerhead are two species that are now endangered due to overfishing. Conservationists are fighting to change fishing regulations in an effort to save more sharks.