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Fishin'for Facts: What would happen if a shark and a whale got in a fight? 

We get this question a lot, so I thought I'd make the answer available for every one. Hope it helps,

    Jake, the SeaDog


This is one of those fun questions kids ask, but it is more fun than real. (Which is why you can't find the answer in a book.)

First, let's be sure you know a few bits of information first. There are 350 different kinds of sharks. Most do not hunt an animal as large as dolphins. (There are 33 kinds of dolphins ranging in size from 4 feet to 25 feet long.)

If sharks are in the vicinity of dolphins, according to one source, "...Mutual tolerance during encounters between sharks and dolphins (bottlenose) is probably typical..." In other words they ignore each other.

Predators, like sharks, often sneak up on the prey, come up from behind or underneath. Predators don't usually "face-off" as in a fight. So the thought of a fight probably isn't accurate. A predator goes in quickly and quietly to attack the prey. If too much "fight" is allowed, the predator may not get to eat.

Also, predators choose the ill, injured or young or old animals to hunt. They're easier to catch. It would be folly for dolphins or sharks to swim around the ocean looking for a rumble. Their survival is based on finding food and staying healthy. So, as you can imagine, intentionally picking a fight with an animal of equal size, strength and health just wouldn't be wise.

Do some sharks hunt small whales like a dolphin or porpoise? Yes. For example, white sharks hunt harbor porpoises. Vaquita are hunted by white, lemon, mako, and black-tipped sharks.

Some whales can hunt sharks, too. A killer whale is the prime example. (Did you know that killer whales are by far the largest predator of many many species of whale and dolphin?) Do sharks and dolphins "interact negatively?" Sure. Some bottlenose dolphins, for example, have been found with scars of shark bites or wounds. The bites are usually found on the posterior and ventral areas (back and bottom!) of the animal. It is thought some of these bites are not related to hunting (territorial bites, perhaps).

An interesting note, harbor porpoises, unlike bottlenose dolphins rarely are found with these scars. Which probably means they end up as lunch - as was intended by an attack. Unlike the scarred, but living bottlenose dolphin.

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