Sharks are well known to be predators, they actively hunt and kill other marine animals in order to survive and help maintain order in the ocean.
They help remove the weak and sick, and ensure that only the strongest of their prey species survive which helps with evolution.
In this post, we’re going to answer a question that is popular among our readers. Are sharks apex predators?
In essence, yes sharks are apex predators. However, they are surprisingly not at the pinnacle of the ocean food chain as once thought.
Let’s take a closer look…
What Is An Apex Predator?
An Apex Predator, also known as the Alpha Predator or Top Predator is a predator that is at the very top of the food chain with no natural predators.
Polar Bears, Leopard Seals, and Great White sharks are all Apex Predators, as they dominate their environments and have no natural predators.
Powerful Apex Predators operate at the pinnacle of the ecological pyramid. They eat the lower species which make up the wider pyramid below.
These predators play a critical role in what scientists call the trophic cascade. The trophic level of an organism defines its position in the food chain, and apex predators sit at the highest trophic level.
They have a huge impact on ecosystems by controlling prey density as well as restricting smaller predators.
Are Sharks Truly Apex Predators?
Sharks have widely been known as the apex predators of the ocean, and more specifically the Great White Shark.
The white shark has up until recently been thought to have no natural predators, meaning they were at the top of the food chain and the dominant species in the ocean.
Great white sharks feed on animals below them in the food chain, such as seals, rays, and fish.
Whilst the great white shark is still considered an apex predator, the shark is no match for another intelligent marine creature, the Orca.
Up until 2015, there have only been two sightings of killer whales eating great white sharks, with a tourist boat off the coast of San Fransisco witnessing it first hand.
In 2015, off the coast of South Australia, a tourist captured a pod of killer whales actively hunting and killing a great white shark.
In 2018, great whites started washing up on the shore in South Africa, which is where many great white sharks reside in the surrounding waters.
The sharks seemed to be intact, although they all had one shared piece missing, the liver.
Later it was identified that the reason for this was down to two male killer whales named Port and Starboard who had killed and removed the livers from the sharks.
One of the likely reasons that killer whales are able to take down white sharks is because of their pack hunting techniques.
Orca hunt in pods, meaning they can simply outnumber the sharks which give the killer whales an advantage.
So although great white sharks are considered apex predators, the Orca is the true apex predator of the seas.
Why Are Sharks Considered Apex Predators?
The reason sharks are considered apex predators is because they have very few natural predators.
There is almost nothing in the ocean that will try to take on some species of sharks.
This helps regulate and maintain balance of marine ecosystems by culling the weak and keeping order in the food chain.
As predators, sharks help to shift their prey’s spatial habitats, which means prey much alter their feeding strategy and often switch up their diets.
In some areas, the loss of sharks has led to a decline in coral reefs, seagrass beds, and the loss of commercial fisheries.
Without sharks to maintain population control of smaller predators, this can have a devastating impact on ecosystems and give dominance to other species.
What Species Of Sharks Are Apex Predators?
Sharks are exceptional hunters, they use their incredible senses to locate prey sometimes from miles away.
For example, sharks can smell a single drop of blood that is hundreds of meters away, and some sharks such as Mako’s can move at speeds of 50mph.
Sharks have been around for a seriously long time, in fact, they have outlived the dinosaurs and had to evolve to be at the top of the food chain.
However, not all sharks are the same, and not all species of shark are fierce as one another.
The whale shark and basking shark are actually filter feeders that feed mostly on plankton, shrimp, and small fish.
Below are some of the species of shark that are certainly apex predators:
Mako sharks reside all over the world in warm, tropical waters. They have a distinct blue coloring that makes them easily identifiable from other species of shark.
These sharks are known for their incredible speeds, being able to move at 50mph in short bursts to chase after prey.
The Mako shark is a warm-blooded killer than was born to be an apex predator.
The bull shark has one of the most fierce reputations of all species of shark.
These sharks are one of the rare types of sharks that can inhabit both saltwater and freshwater, meaning they can often reside in rivers, lakes, and sadly people’s back yards, especially in the likes of Florida.
This means they often encounter humans which results in a high number of shark attacks being attributed to the bull shark.
Great White Shark
The great white shark needs no introduction, a formidable hunter with the attitude to match. These sharks are renowned for their HUGE size and hunting abilities.
Oftentimes they will leap out of the water up to three meters whilst grabbing a seal for their mid-day snack.
Great whites are large, aggressive sharks that are undoubtedly apex predators.
The large and powerful tiger shark is among the most aggressive predators on the planet.
Named for their tiger-like stripes on the sides of their bodies, these sharks are known for attacking other sharks if they get in the way of their own meal.
They can grow between 11 and 14 feet and top out at around 1400 pounds.
The great hammerhead shark is an enormous apex predator that uses its distinct head shape to pin down its prey before taking a bite.
They typically prey on Stingrays, Octopus, and Squid, and are at the top of their food chain giving them apex status.
Are sharks apex predators? They certainly are. Most species of sharks have no natural predators and at at the top of the food chain.
This gives them apex predator status and puts them at the top of their marine ecosystem.
Sharks are among some of the deadliest predators on the planet, with highly adapted senses that make them perfect for hunting prey.
Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned why sharks are apex predators today.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to stick around to learn more about marine wildlife.
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Hi, I’m George – the founder of MarinePatch. I created this blog as marine wildlife has been my passion for many years and I’ve spent decades learning and dedicating myself to documenting all I can about the topic.