Cute Or Killers: Are Dolphins Predators?

are dolphins predators

Sharing is caring!

Dolphins are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet. They use this intelligence to hunt a variety of fish including squid, jellyfish, shrimp, and more.

These formidable hunters can be found all around the world in almost all of our oceans, although they do prefer warmer tropical waters.

These animals have highly sophisticated social structures and use a variety of squeaks, whistles, and clicks to communicate with one another and hunt.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at how dolphins hunt and their predatory status, as well as answer the common question, are dolphins predators?

Yes, dolphins are top ocean predators that prey on a variety of marine species. They have very few natural predators of their own and are even feared by some of the largest sharks in our oceans.

Are All Dolphins Predators?

Dolphins are carnivores that feed on a varied diet of fish, squid, jellyfish, and other marine animals. They are all predatory in nature and need to hunt other animals to survive.

These highly intelligent animals use a range of different hunting techniques to catch their prey which has fascinated researchers for years.

For example, in Costa Rica, bottlenose dolphins chase and capture fish such as yellowtail jack that is too large for the dolphins to swallow whole

The dolphins will grab the fish by the tail and slam it off the surface of the water, breaking it up into bite-sized chunks that the dolphins can manage.

Another well-known tactic that many species of dolphins use is to herd fish into “bait balls”.

The dolphins essentially push the fish together into a tight ball before taking turns to plow into it grabbing as many fish as they can before returning to the back of the queue and waiting for another turn.

What Do Dolphins Prey On?

With around 42 species of dolphin that prey on a variety of different animals, the food they eat largely depends on the dolphin species.

Many dolphins feed on a variety of fish such as sawfish and mackerel, whilst some dolphins prefer to dive deep and feed on squid and jellyfish and others prefer to stay close to the shore and feed on herring.

Bottlenose for example can thrive in many different environments and feed on fish, squids as well as crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp.

They work together to herd fish into bail balls before taking turns charging through it to ensure that they each get a share of the food.

Other species such as the Risso dolphin dive to depths of between 12 and 630 meters to hunt for squid, which is why they are often seen with scars on their face from battling with their prey.

Are Dolphins Apex Predators?

Dolphins are apex predators in our oceans that are free from the threat of almost every other marine animal.

Some large sharks such as great whites, tiger sharks, and bull sharks will occasionally try to prey on dolphins, but oftentimes they don’t waste their time as they risk being injured themselves.

Dolphins are incredibly agile in the water and are capable of swimming at speeds of up to 60km/h meaning not many animals can keep up with them.

Not only that, but they are highly intelligent and often hunt in pods which makes them a force to be reckoned with and a real apex predator.

Dolphins can be surprisingly aggressive too, they use their skulls as a battering ram to charge into the sensitive areas of predators.

Killer whales and large sharks are some of the only predators that can take on a dolphin. Killer whales are also apex predators that dominate the oceans and use strength and intelligence to hunt prey.

They too are a species of dolphin that use their power to slam down onto their prey and even hurl their bodies into the air as is seen when they hunt seals.

Can A Dolphin Kill A Shark?

Very few predators are brave enough to try to take on a dolphin, but some large sharks such as the species mentioned above will sometimes try to kill a dolphin calf or an injured dolphin.

Large sharks will sometimes prey on sick, weak, or injured dolphins if they think they can snag an easy meal.

However, they are incredibly cautious and are even known to be scared of dolphins, as it’s known that dolphins can kill sharks.

Dolphins will slam their hard snouts into the soft stomachs of sharks which can lead to serious internal trauma and death in many cases.

This often frightens the shark after the first blow and will make it swim away. Dolphins even target the gills of sharks as they know this is how they breathe.

A successful blow to a shark’s gills can leave the shark struggling to breathe and ultimately kill it.

Sharks are incredibly cautious when hunting dolphins, which is why they often don’t bother and will spend their energy on prey that is less risky.

Final Thoughts

So, are dolphins predators? Absolutely, these incredibly intelligent animals are predatory in nature and use a variety of hunting techniques to hunt prey.

They primarily feed on fish, squid, jellyfish, and other marine animals that they can hunt and swallow whole.

Unlike some other marine animals, dolphins are carnivores which means they feed on meat. This means they need to actively hunt for their food and are therefore predators of the fish they eat.

Dolphins are incredible predators that often travel in pods that can range from usually around 2 – 30 dolphins, but sometimes be hundreds strong.

They have incredibly strong heads that they use as a battering ram to inflict serious damage to large sharks, which is why they are feared by even the largest species of sharks.

Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned something new today about the dolphin’s predatory status.