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What Eats Whales? (16 Animals with Pictures)

what eats whales

In the animal kingdom, there are those that prey on others for food and those that are preyed upon. Among the top predators in the world are whales.

However, baby and injured whales are regularly hunted by sharks, orcas, and other animals. Furthermore, there is a range of smaller creatures who will eat a whale carcass that has washed ashore.

The blue whale is the largest animal on Earth. It can weigh up to 330,000 pounds and grow as long as 87 feet. Despite its size, the blue whale is a prey species and is eaten by some animals.

Examples of Animals that Eat Whales

1. Bairdi Crabs

Bairdi Crab
Scientific NameChionoecetes bairdi
Type of AnimalCrustaceans
RangeBering Sea

These large crabs can be found in the Northern Hemisphere, where they often prey on beluga whales carcass. They have a powerful claw that can easily break through the whale’s blubber, and they are also known to eat the meat of a decomposing whale that has been beached.

2. Blue Crabs

Blue Crab
Scientific NameCallinectes sapidus
Type of AnimalCrustaceans
RangeAtlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico

One of the most common animals that eat decomposing whales is the blue crab. These crabs can be found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and they can typically be found in packs. They use their powerful claws to pry open the whale’s flesh of dead whales, then use their sharp teeth to bite off chunks of meat. Blue crabs primarily eat whales for the nutrients in their flesh.

3. Dolphins

a vaquita dolphin
Scientific NameCetacea
Type of AnimalFish
RangeWorldwide

Dolphins are one of the most common predators of live whales. They use their speed and agility to chase down whales, then use their sharp teeth to bite into their flesh. As intelligent pack animals, dolphins will collectively stalk, surround and attack whales in a similar way to a wolf pack tracking down a moose. Dolphins primarily eat whales for the nutrients in their flesh, but they also enjoy eating the whale’s blubber.

4. Giant Isopods

Giant Isopods
Scientific NameBathynomus
Type of AnimalCrustaceans
RangeAll Oceans

Giant isopods are a type of crustacean that can be found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. These creatures are some of the largest isopods in the world, and they can grow up to 2 feet long. Giant isopods primarily eat dead whales. They use their sharp claws and teeth to pry open the whale’s flesh and bite off chunks of meat. Giant isopods primarily eat whales for the nutrients in their flesh.

5. Great White Shark

great white shark
Scientific NameCarcharodon carcharias
Type of AnimalFish
RangeSouth Africa, Japan, Oceania, Chile, and the Mediterranean

The great white shark is one of the most feared predators in the ocean. These sharks can grow up to 20 feet long, and they use their razor sharp teeth to take down their prey. Great white sharks primarily eat live whales. They use their speed and agility to chase down whales, then use their sharp teeth to bite into their flesh. Great white sharks primarily eat whales for the nutrients in their flesh.

Related Article: 7 Shark Personality Traits

6. Hagfish

Scientific NameMyxini
Type of AnimalFish
Rangecold ocean waters in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres

Hagfish are another common animals that eat whales. They are eel-like fish that live in the ocean’s deep waters, and they primarily eat dead animals. When a whale dies, the hagfish will swarm to it and start eating away at its flesh. They have a specially adapted throat that allows them to swallow large chunks of meat, and they can eat an entire whale in a matter of hours.

7. Hammerhead Sharks

hammerhead shark
Scientific NameSphyrnidae
Type of AnimalFish
RangeAll Oceans

Hammerhead sharks are some of the most feared predators in the ocean, and for good reason. These sharks have a unique head shape that allows them to easily maneuver through the water. They use their powerful jaws to crush the bones of their prey, and they have no problem eating whales. Hammerhead sharks typically eat whales when they are young, as they are easier to prey on than adult whales.

Related Article: What Eats Sharks?

8. Humans

Humans
Scientific NameHomo sapiens
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeWorldwide

Humans are one of the few predators that actively hunt whales. There are a number of reasons why humans hunt whales, but the primary reason is for their meat. Whale meat is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, and it can be quite expensive. In addition, whale oil is highly prized for its numerous uses, such as in cosmetics and as a lubricant.

While most nations have now banned whale hunting, they’re still hunted in some oceans, particularly by the Japanese.

9. King Crabs

King Crab
Scientific NameLithodidae
Type of AnimalCrustaceans
RangeThe Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, along the coast of the Gulf of Alaska

King crabs are another crustacean that eats dead whales. These crabs can be found in the northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and they typically live in cold waters. They have a diet that consists of mostly fish, but they will also eat marine mammals like whales when they wash ashore. King crabs use their claws to break open the whales’ flesh, then eat the meaty bits. They do this because whales are a rich source of protein and fat.

10. Lobsters

Lobster
Scientific NameNephropidae
Type of AnimalCrustaceans
RangeWorldwide

Lobsters are another crustacean that enjoys a good whale meal. They can typically be found in cold waters, and they have powerful claws that they use to tear apart the flesh of whales. Like blue crabs, lobsters eat whale carcases that have come ashore for the nutrients in their meat.

11. Orcas

orca
Scientific NameOrcinus orca
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeAll Oceans

Orcas, or killer whales, are the largest predators of whales. They can be found in all the world’s oceans, and they typically hunt in packs. Orcas use their sharp teeth to rip into the flesh of other species of whales, then use their powerful jaws to crush the bones. They mainly eat whales for the nutrients in their flesh, but they also eat the blubber for energy.

12. Polar Bears

polar bear
Scientific NameUrsus maritimus
Type of AnimalMammal
Rangethe Arctic

Polar bears are the largest land predators in the world, and they’re also one of the few that hunt and eat whales. They primarily hunt bowhead whales, but they’ll also eat other species of whale if they come across them. Polar bears mainly eat whales for the fat and meat in their bodies. They’re able to survive on a diet of mostly whale meat, which is why they’re one of the few predators that hunt them.

13. Sleeper Sharks

Whale Shark
Scientific NameSomniosidae
Type of AnimalFish
RangePacific Ocean

Sleeper sharks are a type of shark that can be found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They are one of the few sharks that can tolerate colder waters, and they often live near the surface of the water. sleeper sharks hunt whales by lurking beneath them and attacking them from below. They primarily eat whales for their meat, but they will also eat their blubber for the energy it provides.

14. Stone Crabs

Florida Stone Crab
Scientific NameMenippe mercenaria
Type of AnimalCrustaceans
RangeAtlantic and Gulf coasts

Stone crabs are another type of crab that eats decomposing whales. They can be found in the waters near Florida and they use their claws to break open the whale’s flesh. Stone crabs primarily eat whales for their nutrient-rich meat, but they also eat the blubber of the whale for energy.

15. Tiger Sharks

Tiger Shark
Scientific NameGaleocerdo cuvier
Type of AnimalFish
RangeCape Cod to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico and on the west coast from California southward

The tiger shark is one of the most notorious predators in the ocean, and it’s also one of the biggest. These sharks can grow up to 18 feet long, and they have a voracious appetite. They’ll eat just about anything they come across, including whales.

One of the ways tiger sharks hunt whales is by lurking near the surface and ambushing them. They’ll also follow pods of whales, waiting for an opportunity to strike. When they do catch a whale, they’ll usually eat the liver first. This is because the liver is filled with valuable nutrients like vitamin A and D, which the sharks need for their survival.

16. Zombie Worms

Scientific NameOsedax
Type of AnimalSiboglinid polychaetes
RangeAll Oceans

These primitive creatures live near the bottom of the ocean and use their muscular tentacles to grab onto whale carcasses. They have sharp barbs on their tentacles that help them hold on, and they use their powerful jaws to bite through flesh and bone.

If they come across a dead whale, they start to feast, eating everything from the organs to the bones. They’re able to do this because they have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that break down whale flesh and allow the worms to absorb the nutrients.

Conclusion

Whales are a popular target for many different types of predators, both on land and in the ocean. Sharks, giant isopods, dolphins, and polar bears are just a few of the animals that prey on whales. Whales have evolved to be quite defenseless against these predators, which makes them an easy target. Other animals, like crabs and worms, will consume the decomposing carcases of beached whales.

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