Blue whale vs Shark? Who would win in a fight between a great white shark and a blue whale?
Blue whale vs Shark. The most massive creature that ever lived is the blue whale. At birth, the baby weighs about 20 tons and grows to over 200 feet long. A blue whale can consume 50 pounds of krill per day.
A great white shark is one of the world’s apex predators. They weigh up to 2,500 pounds and can grow to 30 feet long. Great whites feed mostly on fish, though they do occasionally take seals and even large marine mammals like humpback whales.
But what happens when a great white shark meets a blue whale? Would either side prevail? We don’t know. Blue whales are extremely rare, making encounters between the two unlikely. However, there are documented cases of great whites attacking and killing blue whales.
In fact, just three months ago, a great white killed a 17-foot-long blue whale off the coast of South Africa. And just last month, another great white attacked a gray whale near Antarctica, biting into its tail fin. Gray whales are the second biggest species of baleen whale, behind the bowhead.
So while there aren’t many instances of great whites attacking blue whales, there isn’t much data on the subject either. So let’s look at some potential scenarios.
First, let’s consider the size difference between the two animals. A great white is roughly twice the length of a blue whale, giving it a significant advantage in terms of physical strength. If the great white is able to corner the blue whale, it could easily overpower it.
However, a blue whale’s enormous size makes it difficult to maneuver around. Its flippers are small compared to its body, meaning it lacks agility. Even if the blue whale manages to escape the great white, it likely wouldn’t be able to outrun it.
A grand banquet
Blue whales are among the largest creatures ever known to live in the ocean. Their size alone makes them awe-inspiring – at up to 30 metres long, they dwarf even the mighty great white shark. But it wasn’t always thus. Blue whales used to be much smaller, about half the length of today’s giants. This is because they had a different diet. Then, some 40 million years ago, came a dramatic change. A shift in climate led to the evolution of huge ice sheets in Antarctica. These glaciers moved northwards and southwards, bringing vast quantities of small marine life into warmer waters off the Antarctic coast. There, the giant baleen whales could feast upon the abundant food supply. And so began the evolutionary arms race between predator and prey. As the blue whale grew larger and ate more, it needed bigger mouths to swallow more food. So it developed the ability to inflate itself with water, allowing it to eat even more. The blue whale became a “super predator”.
A formidable defender
Large sharks are not only hunters; they are also scavengers. This is one reason why some scientists believe that sharks may have been responsible for the extinction of many species of dinosaurs. Sharks are often seen hunting near the surface of the water, where prey like fish and turtles are easier to catch. But what happens when a large predator hunts in deep waters?
In recent years, researchers have found that large sharks such as great whites, makos and tiger sharks feed primarily on dead animals. And growing evidence suggests that whale carcasses are an essential component of their diet. For example, a study published in 2018 showed that blue whales could dive up to 2,500 metres under the ocean surface to eat krill and squid. When the whales came up again, they had gained weight and energy reserves.
The question now is whether sharks can consume live whales. A team led by biologist David Shiffman from the University of Miami examined video footage taken by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). Their findings suggest that sharks can indeed attack living whales. They observed a number of attacks on humpback whales off New Zealand. “We saw several instances of sharks attacking whales,” says Shiffman. “They were chasing the whales around, trying to bite them.”
Sharks don’t always succeed in killing whales, though. Sometimes the whales manage to escape. One of the most remarkable cases occurred in 2016, when a group of white sharks attacked a blue whale off Australia. The sharks chased the whale for about half an hour, but eventually lost interest and left it alone. However, the whales died shortly afterwards.
So how do sharks kill whales? First, they use their teeth to cut into the skin of the animal. Then, they try to grab hold of the whale’s body with their jaws. If they succeed, they clamp down hard enough to break bones and cause internal injuries. Finally, they swallow the whole thing.
The fat in whale blubbers can significantly increase a shark’s metabolism.
With whale meat and blubbery tissue an important source of nutrition for sharks, why might sharks not just take advantage of the opportunity to feast on whales while they’re still alive? After all, whales are relatively easy targets compared to other marine mammals. “Whales are slow-moving, big creatures that are difficult to maneuver quickly,” explains Shiffman. “And they are usually travelling at low speeds.”
So which species would win?
A white shark attacked a juvenile humpback whale near Cape Cod, Mass., USA, in July 2015. The attack left the whale bleeding heavily and seriously injured. Despite attempts to save her life, the baby whale died within hours. This incident occurred during one of the most active periods of summer feeding for humpbacks along the East Coast.
The next day, however, another group of whales came upon the carcass of the dead whale. They immediately began feeding on it and quickly consumed the majority of the body. One of the whales even tried to protect his friends by pushing away the shark.
This incident was captured on video and shared widely online. Although the footage was taken over 24 hours later, scientists still believe that the action was motivated by altruism rather than self-preservation.