Dolphins are some of the top predators in the ocean, they are carnivores that rely on a diet of largely fish and squid.
They are known to inhabit a wide range of oceans around the world but mostly reside in warm, tropical waters.
In this post, we’re going to explore a question we find many of our readers asking. Do dolphins have predators?
Despite dolphins being predators themselves, they do have some natural predators. Not many, but they do sometimes fall victim to larger ocean predators such as Sharks and Orca.
Let’s take a closer look…
Do Dolphins Actually Have Predators?
Dolphins are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet, and for this reason, they rarely become prey.
Bottlenose dolphins can grow 2 – 4 meters in length and weigh up to 650kg. They can swim at speeds of around 18mph and are incredibly agile.
They also travel in pods, offering them more protection from predators. With all of that said, dolphins do fall victim to larger predators on occasion.
Below are some of the top dolphin predators:
Dolphins are hunted and killed by humans on a regular basis. Every single year around 100,000 small whales and dolphins are killed in hunts across the globe.
Dolphins are incredibly intelligent, and for this reason, they can often be seen as competition to fishermen who are trying to make a living.
Some species of dolphin pose a threat to fisheries that rely on catching and selling fish and other marine life for a commercial profit, and with dolphins interfering they are sometimes killed to eliminate the competition.
Humans are responsible for killing dolphins for a number of reasons. Whether that be accidentally through bycatch or on purpose to use as bait and for their meat.
For this reason, many species of dolphins have become endangered, and face near extinction if dolphin hunts continue.
Killer whales, also known as Orca are the true apex predators of the ocean. They are incredibly intelligent and hunt in pods, which makes them capable of hunting animals incredibly efficiently.
Despite Orca being categorized as a dolphin themselves, they also actively hunt and eat other species of dolphin.
Killer whales are broken down into resident pods (fish-eating) and transient pods (mammal-eating).
Transient pods of Orca have been known to take down a dolphin or two, but it’s not their preferred food source.
Dolphins are fast, agile, and incredibly smart, and it’s often not worth the time for Orca to pursue them as they have access to easier-to-catch food.
Sharks are also top predators in the ocean, and large sharks certainly won’t pass up on the opportunity for an easy meal of dolphins.
Large sharks are known to attack and eat sick, injured, or young dolphins.
Sharks are opportunistic feeders and are also scavengers, if they spot dolphins that are entangled or sick, they will certainly take advantage.
However, dolphins are known to kill sharks, if they feel threatened they enter a self-defense mode and can easily outmaneuver sharks.
They will even torment and swim rings around sharks, and whilst in pods are more than capable of killing a single shark.
When sharks do attack dolphins, they often hesitate, which is why it’s often thought that sharks are scared of dolphins.
Dolphins also travel in pods, which easily outnumber a shark, and if one had to place a bet on who would win out of a dolphin or a shark, my money would be on the dolphins every time.
How Do Dolphins Protect Themselves?
There are a number of methods that dolphins use to protect themselves against danger, including echolocation, speed, communication, and traveling in pods.
A pod of dolphins are unrivaled in the ocean, they are predators themselves that are protected by their pods and supreme intelligence.
The pod offers dolphins the most protection, often traveling in a pod of around 12 dolphins, they build strong bonds between one another and are capable of scaring off sharks and other predators.
They also have a strong beak or snout that is used as a weapon when they ram into sharks. This strong snout can inflict a lot of damage and is capable of causing serious harm to an attacking shark.
Are Dolphins Predators Or Prey?
Dolphins are incredibly effective predators thanks to their speed, intelligence, and pods, however, they do become prey in some rare instances.
There are very few predators that can outwit dolphins, which is why they are considered some of the smartest animals in the ocean.
All dolphins are carnivores, which means they actively hunt and eat meat for their source of food. They feed on fish, squid, octopuses, crabs, snails, clams, and much more.
Some species of dolphins, such as the Orca are apex predators that dominate the oceans and have almost no natural predators.
Orca will feed on seals, fish, whales, and much more. Orcas are top predators that rule the oceans and only fall prey to us humans.
So, do dolphins have predators? Yes, they do, but not many. Dolphins are incredibly smart and fast predators that are capable of taking on some of the few predators they have.
They are considered some of the smartest animals in the ocean which is partly why they are able to stay near the top of the food chain.
We humans are the primary threat to dolphins, as with lots of other marine life. We kill a huge number of dolphins every single year through bycatch and to eliminate competition.
However, in some areas of the world dolphins will even work with humans to be fed, as the dolphins will help fishermen herd schools of fish into nets, providing the fishermen feed the dolphins too.
These animals are truly remarkable, and their intelligence is unrivaled in the ocean, making them one of the top predators that have very few natural predators of their own.
Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned a thing or two about dolphins and their predators today.
If you have enjoyed this post, feel free to share it with others that may find it valuable.
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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.