Sperm whales are some of the largest predators in the sea. Aside from the killer whale, which is known as the only Cetacea which is known to successfully hunt, kill and feed on various species of sharks, sperm whales are one of the only other species believed to do so as well. Although sharks aren’t normally on the menu for sperm whales, they have been found to hunt an elusive and rare species of shark which was only discovered in the 1970s. There are many significant reasons why most cetaceans don’t hunt sharks, although some of them, such as the fact that most whales possess baleen plates instead of teeth, don’t apply to sperm whales.
Sperm whales most commonly feed on squid. Giant or colossal squid is most commonly on the diet, and some whales were also discovered to feed on species like octopus and demersal rays. Occasionally, other species are also known to get in the way and be consumed by sperm whales, but these instances are rare. Sperm whales typically descend to a depth of about 300 meters, and feed on medium-sized squid. In some cases, they may go down to a depth of more than 800 meters, and even though the battles between sperm whales and colossal squid have never been witnessed by humans, the remains of many squid species have been discovered inside the stomach or feces of the predator.
While toothed whales such as the sperm whale do possess the ability to hunt sharks, they don’t usually do so for a number of reasons. According to most experts, they aren’t designed to consume sharks or similar predators. Sperm whales only have teeth in the bottom part of their jaws, so they typically go after species of marine animals that they can swallow whole. This is mainly why humans don’t typically see even the largest sperm whales try to take down sharks that are formidable predators in their own rights. However, exceptions exist, and they don’t only apply to smaller shark species.
Alongside the whale shark and the basking shark, the megamouth shark is a species of extant, filter-feeding deepwater shark that isn’t normally seen by humans. However, despite being rarely viewed near the surface, megamouth sharks are found frequently in the deep waters where sperm whales tend to hunt for food, and they are believed to be hunted by larger sperm whales on occasion. Instances where sperm whales would attack a megamouth are rare, however, there is at least one documented case where a group of three sperm whales were observed to directly hunt and attack one of these sharks.