Orcas, often referred to as killer whales, are one of the most feared predators in the sea. An apex predator, the orca has no known predators that are consistently able to hunt it. These animals are a species of large toothed whale belonging to the dolphin family, and their teeth are among the largest in the entire ocean, measuring more than four inches in length. Also, orcas can commonly reach an impressive size of more than 7 meters and speeds as great as 30 knots, or 34 mph.
Killer whales are what is called an apex predator. This means that they have no natural predators that will commonly hunt and eat them. As a result of this fact, the orca is free to hunt and eat practically any species of sea mammals and fish, and they actually do it to a high degree of efficiency. They hunt sharks successfully in packs, by tipping them over and stunning them. They are also able to hunt the largest of whales and the most agile of dolphins by using their high speed and maneuverability, superior intelligence, stealth skills and element of surprise. Despite holding all the cards, orcas are not invulnerable, and as a result, they have developed a very cautious approach to hunting. They are able to turn aggressive and defensive when needed, and they don’t take unnecessary risks.
Even though killer whales are apex predators, they can still fall prey to a number of unconventional or unintentional threats. One of them is humans, their tendency to overfish, which may leave orcas without a food supply, and even their ability to hunt and kill whales. Although in recent decades the attitude and awareness of humans toward orcas has changed drastically, whaling was a serious threat to the species for more than a hundred years, during the 19th and early 20th century. Other possible threats to orcas may also include various parasites, or diseases that can have a strong negative effect on the killer whales’ health.
While killer whales can take down the largest and most intimidating sharks, whales and any other marine creatures, they aren’t invincible. There have been many instances when orcas were forced to defend themselves and were even defeated by animals that would normally be listed among their prey. Killer whales may be seriously injured or even killed by the fluke strikes of female sperm whales protecting their young. Also, sharks are likely to put up a fight when cornered by a pack of orcas. A few select species of sharks may be able to latch onto a large predator like the orca and seriously injure them in a fight. These species may include great whites and massive megalodon sharks.