'Sharks vs Dolphins: Blood Battle': Why dolphins usually emerge the unexpected winners in this marine fight

It may come as a surprising fact, but often, the dolphin can come out on top of a battle with a shark. For the most part, it is a fight of brain vs brawn, with the dolphin being the brain, of course


                            'Sharks vs Dolphins: Blood Battle': Why dolphins usually emerge the unexpected winners in this marine fight
(Getty Images)
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It's easy to underestimate the dolphin — after all, we've tamed the ones which feature as regular attractions at aquariums and dolphin zoos doing tricks where visitors can feed or even ride them. But what we don't often realize is that the dolphin is as much a formidable predator in the ocean as the terrifying shark and often comes out on top.

National Geographic's Sharkfest, 'Sharks vs Dolphins: Blood Battle' explores the enmity between the two species and gives us insights into the war between the two predators. It may come as a surprising fact, but often, the dolphin can come out on top in a battle with the shark. For the most part, it is a fight of brain vs brawn — with the dolphin being the brain, of course — but there are many factors that help the dolphin emerge as the unexpected winner. 

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For one, the dolphin moves around in a pack as opposed to the shark which is often a lone hunter. Dolphins are natural prey for many species of sharks, including tiger sharks, great white sharks and bull sharks. Most of these fish — and some aren't very large — prey on young dolphins as well as old and sick ones. When a member of a pod is in danger from a shark, however, the rest of the pod springs to the defense.

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They will surround the shark, swimming around it in all directions and slapping it with their fins to confuse it. Most sharks end up fleeing, and the technique is so effective that the shark probably won't threaten a dolphin pod again. This is one of the main reasons why sharks are afraid of dolphins, despite their superior strength.

The different anatomy of the two species also helps the dolphin when it comes to a battle with the shark. In addition to the dolphin's ability to do echolocation — to determine the location of a predator or prey — the dolphin's fins and tail give it the added advantage. A combination of soft skin and flexible skeletal joints makes it easier for dolphins to maneuver quickly in a fight against their cartilage-filled counterparts.

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Moreover, the vertical plane of shark tails limits their upward and downward mobility while the horizontal plane of dolphin tails allows for great agility and directional change for quick attacks. The dolphin's snout — made of very strong and thick bone — is also an added advantage as the dolphin can position itself several yards under a shark and burst upwards jabbing its snout into the soft underbelly of the shark causing serious internal injuries.

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Of course, the dolphin's biggest advantage over a shark's strength is its intelligence. Using echolocation, dolphins can quickly navigate through the water to avoid or attack sharks. To compliment dolphins' superior intelligence is their incredible speed. They can swim faster than most shark species making them an elusive meal not worth the chase.

'Sharks vs Dolphins: Blood Battle' premieres on July 20 at 10/9c on National Geographic. An encore presentation will air on Sunday, August 9, at 7/6c on Nat Geo WILD!

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