The most dangerous predator of the ocean, excellent eyesight, unique social behavior and one of the smartest animals on the planet! On the other side, the nightmare of the oceans, its razor-sharp teeth, and the predator responsible for hundreds of deaths each year. So which one is stronger?
The main differences between killer whales and sharks are that killer whales are mammals, have a distinct black and white coloration, and are regular predators of sharks. Sharks are a group of fish that are cartilage-based, have 5-7 gill slits, and pectoral fins not fused to their heads.Killer whales, or orcas, as they are known, are a species of toothed whales that belong to the dolphin family. They are large creatures that are considered to be the ocean’s top predators without much competition. Additionally, orcas are extremely intelligent, social, and hunt as a pack. Sharks are well-known predators in the world’s oceans, with more than 500 species documented. Within that large group is a lot of variation.
Orcas are among the larger creatures in the ocean, although the largest sharks (whale sharks) are larger. The largest predatory shark in the world, the great white, is still smaller than an adult orca, however. Only filter-feeding sharks like the whale shark and the bigmouth shark rival the orca in size.
1. Killer Whale vs Shark: Appearance
There are few more distinct creatures in the ocean than the killer whale. Killer whales have a clear whale or dolphin-like body shape, but with their famous black and white pattern. They have rounded snouts and long dorsal fins.
Sharks vary greatly in appearance according to their species. Many predatory sharks have gray bodies, sharp teeth, and distinct dorsal fins that occasionally stick out of the water. Still, hundreds of variations occur, with anomalies like the hammerhead shark, megamouth shark, and goblin sharks all having extremely distinct appearances.
2. Killer Whale vs Shark: Classification
Although killer whales live in the ocean, they are technically classified as mammals. Orcas belong to a group known as “toothed whales,” along with sperm whales. All whales are cetaceans, including dolphins, with orcas specifically being classified as members of the dolphin family.
Sharks are very old creatures that go back millions of years. They are technically fish and further classified as cartilaginous fish, or cartilage-based fish, as opposed to bony fish.
3. Killer Whale vs Shark: Distribution
Killer whales are extremely widespread animals that can be found in nearly every ocean in the world, including the cold ones. They have a “cosmopolitan” distribution, meaning they can be found nearly everywhere. These hardy animals can even be found in the arctic and antarctic oceans.
Individual shark species are usually relegated to certain regions, but the group as a whole can be found in nearly every place in the world’s oceans. From the surface-dwelling nurse shark to the deep-diving Portuguese dogfish sharks that live 12,057 feet down, you can find sharks everywhere.
4. Killer Whale vs Shark: Underwater breathing
As mammals, orcas aren’t able to breathe water. Instead, they utilize a blow-hole, similar to other whales. With a single breath, killer whales can stay under for around 15 minutes.
Sharks do breathe underwater and utilize gills in order to do so. In order for a shark to breathe, however, it needs to keep moving in order to force fresh water over its gills to pull oxygen from the water.
5. Killer Whale vs Shark: Diet
Orcas are the apex predators in any environment they are found. Lone orcas can kill seals, sea lions, sea turtles, and even sharks and dolphins. In many places, orcas target sharks, flip them upside down to paralyze them, and eat their livers. As a pack, orcas are able to kill large whales together.
Sharks are also apex predators, although their diet mostly depends on the species. Large predatory sharks kill sea turtles, seals, fish, and other similar prey. Filter feeders gulp large amounts of water and pass it over filter pads in order to clear out the small microscopic creatures they live on.
6. Killer Whale vs Shark: Predators
Orcas have virtually no predators in the wild. The only real threat they face is from humans and human-caused events.
The size of a shark is mostly what determines its level of predation. When a shark is small, virtually any larger fish is able to prey on it as they aren’t protected by an adult as orcas are. For smaller sharks, large fish, other sharks, and more all pose a risk. For larger sharks like tiger sharks and great whites, the only real threats are killer whales.
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