The 7 Largest Ocean Predators (Pictures & Facts)
When you think of the ocean, your mind probably goes to the beautiful marine life, exotic fish swimming in schools, dolphins playing, and the calm surface of a tropical sea.
But beneath the surface live some of the biggest creatures in the world, growing up to 100 feet long! There are many large sea animals; while some are docile, others are aggressive and dangerous.
Today, we will discuss the world’s seven most powerful and largest ocean predators.
Largest Ocean Predators in the World
There are more than one million different species in the aquatic habitats. Amongst them, below are the seven largest sea predators:
1. Blue Whales
2. Sperm Whales
3. Whale Sharks
4. Killer Whales
5. Great White Sharks
6. Tiger Sharks
7. Blue Marlins
- Scientific Name: Balaenoptera musculus
- Size: 75 – 100 feet
- Weight: 290,000 – 400,000 pounds
Blue whales are the largest ocean predators and, at the same time, the largest living animals in the world, growing up to 100 feet long and 400,000 pounds of weight.
For context, 400,000 pounds is about the size of 14 type C buses, and its tongue alone has about the weight of an elephant.
As large as they are, these creatures feed on something relatively small – krills.
Blue whales are filter feeders.
Instead of teeth, they have baleen (fingernail-like material) attached to their upper jaws. Part of the reason it can’t swallow a human as some people think.
The blue whale swims deep into the ocean towards a large group of krills; opens its jaws to swallow the krills with water, thus expanding the pleated skin on its throat and belly. It pushes out the excess water through the baleen plates and swallows the krills.
Blue whales also eat smaller fish of prey like the feeder fish. Interestingly, despite their size, we (humans) have never been on their menu.
Want to learn more about the human/blue whale relationship? You can read a dedicated article on this topic – are blue whales dangerous to humans?
- Scientific Name: Physeter macrocephalus
- Size: 35 – 68 feet
- Weight: 31,000 – 90,000 pounds
Sperm whales are the largest of all toothed whales.
Adult males can measure up to 68 feet long and weigh 90,000 pounds. Females are smaller, growing to about 35 feet long and weighing up to 30,000 pounds.
They are dark gray or black and have a blunt head with a large lower jaw. Their gigantic heads make up roughly one-third of their entire body length and house the largest brain found in fishes.
Unlike baleen whales, sperm whales don’t have a regular migration pattern in the ocean. Their distribution varies depending on the sex and age structure of the pods. Their migrations are influenced by their food supply and breeding conditions.
Sperm whales can dive 2,000 feet underwater and stay there for up to 45 minutes. They eat squid, octopus, sharks, and deep water fishes.
These giant sea predators possess 30 to 60 long teeth (up to 8 inches and weighing up to 2.2 pounds) on their bottom jaw, the largest among whales.
During an attack, the sperm whale uses its jaws to produce a strong suction that allows it to suck its prey.
Although large, sperm whales are not dangerous to humans and usually only display aggressive behavior in self-defense.
- Scientific Name: Rhincodon typus
- Size: 32 – 40 feet
- Weight: 30,000 – 45,000 pounds
Whale sharks are the largest known extant fishes, and they can grow to 40 feet and weigh up to 45,000 pounds.
The whale shark can be found in tropical and warm-temperate waters worldwide. They prefer shallow coastal waters with plenty of food, but they have been recorded as deep as 1,600 feet.
Whale sharks possess a blunt snout above their mouth, short barbels sticking out of their nostrils, and two dorsal fins. Its belly is white, while its back and sides are gray to brown with white dots scattered between light vertical and horizontal stripes.
They are filter feeders that eat plankton, small fish, and crustaceans by scooping them up with their mouths while swimming slowly through open water.
These enormous sea predators have huge mouths up to 10 feet wide. However, they do not have teeth but rows of tiny teeth-like plates on the roof of their mouth that help them crush their food before swallowing it.
Like blue whales, whale sharks are gentle, which is quite unusual for a shark. It doesn’t attack humans; its prey is the weakest in the habitat.
- Scientific Name: Orcinus orca
- Size: 23 – 26 feet
- Weight: 8,000 – 13,000 pounds
Killer whales, also called orcas, are large predatory sea dolphins. They are the biggest members of the Dolphin family and one of the strongest animals in the ocean.
Killer whales live in groups called pods that can number up to 40 individuals. They are found in all the world’s oceans.
Adult orcas can grow up to 26 feet weighing 13,000 pounds for males, 23 feet, and about 8,000 pounds for females.
Killer whales have the second largest brains of all marine mammals and one of the largest brain-to-body mass ratios of any animal.
Orcas are intelligent and social animals that communicate through various sounds. Each pod has recognizable noises that its members can identify from a distance.
When hunting, they make loud noises that travel underwater and bounce back, exposing the objects’ position, size, and form.
Killer whales are said to rule the ocean as apex predators because they have no natural predators and hunt and kill blue whales.
These sea giants have large conical teeth numbering 40 to 56. Surprisingly, they do not chew prey; instead, they tear large prey into chunks before swallowing them.
The diet of killer whales consists of sharks, sea lions, seals, and other marine mammals.
Great White Sharks
- Scientific Name: Carcharodon carcharias
- Size: 13 – 21 feet
- Weight: 4,000 – 5,000 pounds
The white shark is a big and powerful lamniform shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. It is one of the largest known extant predatory fishes and a giant marine predator.
The shark is recognized for having a torpedo-shaped body with a long, pointed snout and large jaws.
Great white sharks have the strongest bite force of any sea predator (4,000 PSI), and they prey upon other marine animals, including fish and seabirds.
Its powerful jaws are filled with up to 300 serrated, triangular teeth.
These ocean creatures are famous for their large size and aggressive nature. They measure up to 21 feet and 5,000 pounds weight, with males being smaller.
Great white sharks travel long distances in search of food. They have been tracked swimming up to 56 kph and 80 miles daily.
Interestingly, they mostly rely on smell and electroreception (detection of electrical impulses) to find food (they do not have good vision) which includes sharks, seals, sea lions, dolphins,
- Scientific Name: Galeocerdo cuvier
- Size: 10 – 14 feet
- Weight: 850 – 1,400 pounds
Growing up to 1,400 pounds and 14 feet in length, tiger sharks or spotted sharks are one of the biggest in the family.
Like white sharks, tiger sharks feed on fish, dolphins, and even other sharks.
Tiger sharks are common in tropical and sub-tropical waters worldwide. They have a broad, flat head, short, blunt snout, long labial furrows, and slender bodies with gray tops and white bellies.
These predators aren’t only aggressive but fast too, swimming at speeds up to 20 mph. Its agility helps them spot and catch prey quicker.
When hunting, tiger sharks use the bump and bite method to bite the target until it’s weak. It then tears down the target using its 48 sharp teeth to tear the flesh before swallowing.
Unlike white sharks, tiger sharks have a less sensitive palate. They eat almost anything composed of flesh and blood.
- Scientific Name: Makaira nigricans
- Size: 11 – 14 feet
- Weight: up to 1,985 pounds
The last member in our list of largest ocean predators is the blue marlin. Prey to the killer whales and predators to squids, the Antarctic blue marlin is one of the biggest predators in the ocean.
Adult blue marlins measure up to 1,985 pounds in weight and 14 feet in length, the length of a Volkswagen Beetle.
The Atlantic blue marlin is endemic to the Atlantic ocean (hence the name). Still, it’s also found in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
These large ocean predators spend most of their lives in the open sea, far from land. They swim near the water surface due to the warm temperatures but dive as deep as 2,336 feet.
Being migratory fishes, they follow warm currents for hundreds or thousands of miles.
Blue marlins are beautiful fishes with a unique appearance, cobalt-blue top, and silvery white belly. Their weapon of destruction is the long spear-shaped jaw and small roof of teeth lined on the upper jaw.
Despite their size, blue marlins swim fast when hunting, cutting through tunas, mackerels, and squids using their sharp spar.
In fact, they’re one of the fastest animals in the ocean, with an average speed of 50 mph.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, we’ll answer a few questions you might be curious about.
What is the Largest Sea Predator Ever?
The largest sea predator ever is the blue whale. It can reach up to 100 feet in length and weigh as much as 400,000 pounds. A blue whale weighs as much as 28 elephants and is as long as a 10-story building.
Other Prehistoric Ocean Predators
There used to be numerous big sea predators around the world, but unfortunately, many of them were extinct long before the modern era.
Some of the most significant predators were:
- The Megalodon; is a gigantic shark that lived about 20 million years ago in what is now the Pacific ocean. It grew to 90 feet long, making it one of the largest sharks.
- Another giant ocean predator was the Livyatan, a large sperm whale that lived about 12 to 13 million years ago. This aquatic predator grew up to 60 feet with an estimated weight of about 114,000 pounds.
There are many powerful predators ruling marine wildlife. Still, it turns out that Blue Whales and Sperm Whales, two of the largest ocean predators, do not attack humans or any other large sea animals. They’re gentle and prey on smaller fish far down the food chain.
Thank you for reading. If you liked this article, here’s another recommended post: Strongest Sharks in the World.