Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog

What’s the Relationship Between Orcas/Killer Whales & Sharks?

orcas swimming in a body of water

From children to adults, people of all ages are fascinated by the larger-than-life animals that live in the ocean. An orca vs shark fight might seem like something that only appears in a child’s imaginative drawings, but there’s more truth to that rivalry than fiction. The relationship between orcas, also known as killer whales, and sharks is surprising and offers an important perspective on life in the oceans.

The Relationship Between Orcas and Sharks

The relationship between orcas and sharks is one of predator and prey. While many people assume that sharks exist at the top of the food chain, orcas hunt, kill, and eat sharks.

Although people call them “killer whales,” orcas are technically dolphins. They are the largest members of the dolphin family and have their genus of classification, Orcinus. Orcas are carnivores and prey on many animals, including sharks, whales, fish, sea birds, seals, walruses, sea turtles, and more.

whale breaching

Are Orcas Dangerous to Sharks?

Sharks are food for orcas, so there is a very real danger for sharks when orcas are nearby. Orcas can take down even the most fearsome predator of the sea, the great white shark.

In a battle of orca vs. great white, a pod of orcas will work together to stun and kill the shark. One of the hunting techniques scientists have documented is a maneuver where an orca pushes a shark up toward the water’s surface and then uses its tail to chop the shark downward, something like a karate chop. In other instances, orcas will work together to force a shark upside down, which causes the shark to go into a paralyzed state.

Orcas can hunt effectively because they brilliantly work together to hunt their prey together. This pack behavior is advantageous when hunting lone sharks. Orcas can outnumber their prey, surround it, and quickly kill a shark.

shark in the ocean

Are Orcas Friendly to Sharks?

While there may be anecdotal evidence suggesting that orcas are occasionally friendly to sharks, the reality is that orcas consider sharks food. Because food is relatively scarce in the ocean, orcas have to work hard to survive on what they can find, including sharks.

Orcas and sharks often target the same smaller animals to eat, and this competition means sharks and orcas sometimes inhabit the same parts of the sea. When orcas appear in an area, the sharks will leave and not return for up to a year. This demonstrates that sharks are incredibly wary of orcas and recognize the threat that orcas pose.

Is an Orca Stronger Than a Shark?

Hollywood has portrayed sharks as the most dangerous animals in the ocean, but orcas are bigger, faster, and stronger than sharks. Even great white sharks can’t compare to the size and power of an orca. Great whites can reach up to 20 feet and weigh 2.5 tons. Orcas range in size from 18 to 23 feet, with females slightly smaller than males. However, orcas weigh far more than great white sharks, weighing around 7-10 tons.

There is a lot of evidence of orcas killing sharks in the wild, which proves that orcas are at the top of the food chain. Even though they are stronger, orcas rarely hunt and kill alone. They communicate and coordinate with the other orcas in their pod and share the food when the hunt is over. Orcas have a unique social structure and share close bonds with other mammals in their pods.

There’s nothing like encountering an animal as unique as an orca in the wild. Experience whales, dolphins, and orcas in all their majesty and power by booking a whale-watching tour today.