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Old 04-13-2013, 10:00 PM
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Could a megalodon kill a blue whale?

The prehistoric giant predatory shark megalodon was certainly a terrifying critter. My question is -- would one of these mega-sharks be capable of killing the biggest specimens of the blue whale, the most massive mammal ever recorded?
Let's say that the whale has detected the approach of the shark as it attacks.
The behemoth has just a bit of time to react to the onslaught of nasty sharp pointy teeth. Will it be able to fend off the attack? Or is the whale doomed?

Any insight / information would be appreciated.
Old 04-13-2013, 11:59 PM
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I believe whales were its prey (dunno about Blue Whales though) and IIRC Orca's sometimes attack Blue Whales.
Old 04-14-2013, 12:12 AM
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Originally Posted by AK84 View Post
I believe whales were its prey (dunno about Blue Whales though) and IIRC Orca's sometimes attack Blue Whales.
Yeah, I knew that they would go after whales. I wondered if the very biggest blue whales would be too much for them. Do orcas hunt the big adults, or just try for babies and juveniles?
Old 04-14-2013, 01:03 AM
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I bet a lion could.
Old 04-14-2013, 06:59 AM
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I think they could, whether or not they did, I'll leave to the experts. I saw some footage in a whale documentary that showed a pod of orcas attackinga big blue. They chomped off it until they had their fill, then left, leaving it mortally wounded.
Old 04-14-2013, 07:41 AM
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If it wanted to, it could. Easily, I'd imagine.

The big problem with hypothetical animal vs animal fights is that, most of the time, they'd just ignore or avoid each other.

Look up "bug fights" on youtube. Even in a tiny container, the critters from different habitats don't recognize each other as prey or danger, and spend most of the time trying to escape. The fights between animals from the same habitat are over much more quickly.

see:
(different habitat) http://youtube.com/watch?v=uq2cdeAvo70
vs:
(same habitat) http://youtube.com/watch?v=IlrNSKb2_ys

Apex predators like sharks are even more cautious.
Old 04-14-2013, 02:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker View Post
I think they could, whether or not they did, I'll leave to the experts. I saw some footage in a whale documentary that showed a pod of orcas attackinga big blue. They chomped off it until they had their fill, then left, leaving it mortally wounded.
Unlike orcas, Megalodons were probably solitary hunters. The related Great White Shark will scavenge whale carcasses, they rarely if ever attack live whales much larger than themselves. (They will attack marine mammals their own size or somewhat larger.) They are mostly ambush hunters, with larger ones specializing on marine mammals.

Megalodon probably would have attacked and eaten smaller whales like Minkes. Its unlikely they would have attacked an adult Blue Whale. Even if it did it probably would not be able to kill the whale outright, although it might bleed to death from bites.
Old 04-14-2013, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
I bet a lion could.
Not to mention a honey badger.
Old 04-14-2013, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
I bet a lion could.
Bah, a lion couldn't even take on a tuna.
Old 04-14-2013, 11:52 PM
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Another problem with these animal death-match questions is that hunters are always more cautious than they need to be. Even if you can attack a full-size, healthy, aware blue whale head-on, why in the heck would you? There are plenty of smaller, sicker, unaware victims who are far less likely to hurt you back. A predator can't afford to be injured; even a 10% chance of being hurt means you're dead in less than a year.

Sharks are a perfect example of this. They are attracted by blood, and by odd vibrations in the water that suggest an injured fish. Even then, they'll circle the target and attack from below or behind whenever possible.

So, while I don't doubt that the megalodon could have killed the blue whale, it would have to be one desperate shark with no other options to even try. They're just not interested in a fair fight.
Old 04-15-2013, 12:07 AM
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I wonder if the megalodon spurred the evolution of a monster-size cetacean like the blue whale. The bigger you get, the less likely that you will seem like an easy meal...
Old 04-15-2013, 10:21 AM
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Gonna be ignernt here I think, but what exactly can a blue whale do to protect itself? Megalodon got up to about 70 feet long, blue whales about 100. In general, bigger = less agile. As hunters of large-ish prey, sharks are pretty nimble and the largest ones--the basking & whale, are filter feeders. The big whales, likewise, hunt masses of tiny little things that can't get out of the way--no need for being particularly nimble, just gape your maw and swim through the ball of food.

Megaladon vs. a blue whale seems more like a contest between a panther and a sloth. What am I missing about the whale?
Old 04-15-2013, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by The Great Sun Jester View Post
Gonna be ignernt here I think, but what exactly can a blue whale do to protect itself? Megalodon got up to about 70 feet long, blue whales about 100. In general, bigger = less agile. As hunters of large-ish prey, sharks are pretty nimble and the largest ones--the basking & whale, are filter feeders. The big whales, likewise, hunt masses of tiny little things that can't get out of the way--no need for being particularly nimble, just gape your maw and swim through the ball of food.

Megaladon vs. a blue whale seems more like a contest between a panther and a sloth. What am I missing about the whale?

Couldn't the whale give a predator a massive wallop with its tail? Perhaps not, I don't really know how maneuverable they are.
Old 04-15-2013, 10:42 AM
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Megalodon at 70 feet is a bit of a stretch. We only know it from its teeth and all size estimates are essentially educated guesses based on the relationship of tooth size to body size in modern sharks.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker View Post
I think they could, whether or not they did, I'll leave to the experts. I saw some footage in a whale documentary that showed a pod of orcas attackinga big blue. They chomped off it until they had their fill, then left, leaving it mortally wounded.
If it was Blue Planet, they were attacking a juvenile blue whale while its mother tried to protect it. I seriously doubt even a Tillicum-sized orca has the jaw articulation to bite the trunk of an adult blue whale's body. Their jaws only open about 45-50 degrees. Google brings up a couple of references to attacks on adult sperm whales, though I imagine those were females. Nothing fucks with male sperm whales.

Last edited by Really Not All That Bright; 04-15-2013 at 10:46 AM.
Old 04-15-2013, 12:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Great Sun Jester View Post
Gonna be ignernt here I think, but what exactly can a blue whale do to protect itself?

...

Megaladon vs. a blue whale seems more like a contest between a panther and a sloth. What am I missing about the whale?
gytalf and RNATB are both correct: blue whales have very powerful tail muscles and can deliver quite a slap, as well as being large enough to be an extremely difficult item for any predator to actually handle. While bites might hurt, a deadly bite would be very difficult for any predator, even the largest of extinct predators, to deliver.

Ramming - a tactic often used by orcas and sharks to stun prey - is definitely not advised against an adult blue whale that might outmass a large orca by as much as ten times or more.

Blue whales are also extremely fast, clocked at over 25 knots for short speed runs.

In general for all the large baleen whales, predators focus only on the young and already sick/injured animals. Attacking a healthy adult blue, humpback, or grey whale is just not worth it. Calves/juveniles are the object of virtually all attacks.

I'm not sure what footage Earl saw, but I would bet the blue whale was large, but not an adult.
Old 04-15-2013, 12:25 PM
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My understanding (and I am far from being any kind of expert on marine biology) is that, when orcas attack whales, they rarely try to eat the whole thing- they tend to attack baleen whales, and their target is one thing only: the whale's big, meaty tongue. A pack of orcas will attack a baleen whale repeatedly, just to get into its mouth and start tearing out its tongue.

Once the tongue is gone, the orcas will swim off, leaving the mortally wounded, tongueless whale to drift off and die. The rest of the whale's body is of no interest to the orcas, who leave the carcass for assorted sea scavengers.

Last edited by astorian; 04-15-2013 at 12:26 PM.
Old 04-15-2013, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by wevets View Post
not sure what footage Earl saw, but I would bet the blue whale was large, but not an adult.
Whales (1987), narrated by Johnny Carson. I'll get a copy and re-review it on size. One part of the documentary uses a great line from "Moby Dick:"
Quote:
Originally Posted by Herman Melville's Moby Dick
; the moot point is, whether Leviathan can long endure so wide a chase, and so remorseless a havoc; whether he must not at last be exterminated from the waters, and the last whale, like the last man, smoke his last pipe, and then himself evaporate in the final puff.
Old 04-15-2013, 12:35 PM
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I think that even without hitting a Megalodon with it's tail a big blue could cause massive turbulence that would throw off the shark's attack. If the whale were at rest it might be somewhat vulnerable to an attack from below on the front half of the whale, but if the whale were already in motion it could probably outswim the shark easily. But as others have mentioned, it seems unlikely that shark would attack a whale more than twice it's size. The behavior of more intelligent orcas probably doesn't apply to sharks, so unless a shark has the intelligence or instinct to attack the vulnerable parts of the whale it probably doesn't have a chance, even if it can open it's jaw wide enough to cause more than a flesh wound.
Old 04-15-2013, 08:27 PM
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2 possible scenarios:
Realistic: the megalodon ignores the whale and goes off to find easier prey
Mind-controlled shark: it bleeds the whale to death by biting its fins and flukes off
Old 04-16-2013, 05:38 AM
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As I understand predation, it is usually outliers (sick, elderly, weak) who are taken. Those in their prime stand a better chance at surviving, while the young are protected by adaptive measures.
Old 04-16-2013, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by thicksantorum View Post
Realistic: the megalodon ignores the whale and goes off to find easier prey
Were it not for the teeth it would be a safe bet megalodon was a filter feeder like the largest extant sharks. But dem teef! If it were preying on more reasonably-sized things one would assume it would have more reasonably-sized teeth--proportionately bigger jaws given its overall length, maybe, with (lots more) teeth about the same size as a great white's to work the same kind of prey. I mean, the maw is so big it wouldn't really need to even bite a seal or a salmon, or even a tuna if it could catch one, so no need for teeth at all. They had the gear for biting whales, especialy if they could extend their jaws the way the goblin shark does (freaky youtube videos readily available).

Is it possible/suggested they competed for carcasses, perhaps tongueless baleens, and so would need to be able to excise a huge mouthful, quickly, and then chomp it up at their leisure while staying out of the way of other competetors? But does a scavenger NEED to be that big? Seems like you only get that big if you need to overpower something, otherwise you stay worm-sized and numerous. That's not really what the OP was asking though.
Old 04-16-2013, 01:34 PM
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In the MBA we had a Great White. Altho in many ways it was “King of the Tank” even it got out of the way of the 500# Blue fin tunas when it was feeding time.
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