In this guide, we’ll answer the question:
“What eats dolphins?”
First, you’ll find a short summary of what animals eat dolphins in the ocean and then get a detailed list of dolphin predators.
Dolphins are classified as marine mammals and not fish as some people expect. And the word “dolphin” is the common name of aquatic mammals within the infraorder Cetacea which also consists of whales.
The term dolphin usually refers to the extant families Delphinidae, Platanistidae, Iniidae, Pontoporiidae, and the extinct Lipotidae. Overall, there are 40 extant species named as dolphins; however, the bottlenose dolphin is the most familiar dolphin species due to its adaptability to captive life.
As for the average lifespan, dolphins live to be around 60 years old.
What Eats Dolphins?
Animals that eat dolphins include orcas (killer whales), tiger sharks, dusky sharks, bull sharks, great white sharks, and humans. Dolphins are apex predators with very few natural enemies in the ocean.
According to marine scientists, bull sharks are the most dangerous sharks in the world and are among the top species that eats dolphins.
And bull sharks are very active in hunting dolphins. Seaworld reports, “In Sarasota Bay, Florida, about 31% of dolphins have shark bite scars”, which includes bull shark attacks.
However, most dolphins are quite good at evading hungry bull sharks, except for very young calves and sick adult dolphins which are the slowest, weakest, and most vulnerable mammals of this kind.
The dusky shark, also known as a “bronze whaler” or “black whaler”, is a lesser-known coastal shark found in coastal waters across the globe.
Dusky shares are one of the top dolphin predators in the ocean.
Great White Sharks
Great white sharks are another natural predator for dolphins.
Large sharks like the great white shark will typically attack an unsuspecting dolphin when they cross paths in the sea.
Orcas (also known as killer whales) are apex predators that hunt in pods. The benefit of living in a pod is to sneak up on their prey, surround them, and attack.
An orca is a generalist predator, consuming fish, seals, sea lions, and even dolphins.
According to a report by CBC News on the topic of killer whales and dolphins that featured the Coastal Ocean Research Institute, “Killer whales are the only predators that regularly kill and devour Pacific white-sided dolphins off the B.C. and Washington coasts.”
Tiger sharks are a common marine species that live in tropical and sub-tropical waters throughout the world and are also known as ocean-living animals that eat dolphins.
The tiger shark is the fourth-largest shark and second-largest predatory shark behind the great white shark mentioned previously.
Humans are some of the top predators of dolphins because many cultures around the world include marine mammals in their diets.
Research by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation estimates “more than 100,000 dolphins and small whales are hunted and killed every year – many to be used as bait in shark, tuna and other fisheries.”
Dolphin meat is consumed in a small number of countries worldwide, which include Japan and Peru (where it is referred to as chancho marino, or “sea pork”) as well as Nigeria, Venezuala, India, South Korea, Malaysia, and Greenland.
But there are many countries that kill dolphins to use as bait in shark fisheries, including Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Japan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan.
What Do Dolphins Eat?
Dolphins are also predators that must prey on other animals to survive.
You can visit our other guide on what do dolphins eat to find out more about what these mammals feed on for nutrition.
Animals That Eat Dolphins Summary
You now know what eats dolphins in the wild and which species are the top dolphin predators.
As you discovered in this guide, there are about 6 marine animals that eat dolphins in the ocean.
I’m the lead editor and writer for Animal Answer Guide. I enjoy sharing expert knowledge on the various characteristics of common species within the five distinct groups of animals: amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles.