Dolphin vs Shark

One of the most significant distinctions between a dolphin vs shark is that sharks are fish, whereas dolphins are mammals.

Sharks have gills on their sides, whereas dolphins use a blowhole on top of their head to breathe. The distinctions and more are discussed in detail below.

dolphin vs shark

Dolphin vs Shark: Main Differences

Here are the top five differences between a dolphin vs shark:  

Habitat

Dolphins, like humans, need air to survive. They spend the majority of their lives near the surface of the water, where there is plenty of available air.

Sharks, on the other hand, spend their entire lives underwater, swimming through open seas and occasionally rivers. Both are found in all of the world’s oceans.

Social Structure

Dolphins are far more sociable than sharks. Dolphins live in groups ranging from a few individuals to hundreds (superpods). According to scientists, sharks spend the majority of their lives alone.

Size

The size of a dolphin or shark is determined by the species. Sharks can grow up to six inches in length and more than 40 feet in length. Dolphins, on the other hand, can range from 6 feet to 31 feet in length.

Appearance

Both dolphins and sharks employ countershading, which is a phenomenon found in a variety of marine animals.

They have a golden cast to their undersides and a dark tone on their backs. Because of this, they can blend into the bright light of the surface of the sea or the gloomy depths below.

Diet

Both dolphins and sharks are omnivores that feed on whatever they can get their mouths around. This means they dine on whatever is most convenient and readily accessible. Both fish and squid are eaten by dolphins and sharks.

That said, sharks will consume animals of all sizes. Some species are filter feeders, which means they survive on plankton and shrimp.

Fins

Both dolphins and sharks have dorsal fins on their backs, as well as pectoral fins on their sides. Both creatures also have a tail. Sharks’ tail fin are vertical, whereas dolphins’ are horizontal.

The two marine species are most adept at moving vertically and horizontally, respectively. In more depth, we’ll examine these variations as well as fascinating information about sea creatures further below.

dolphins jumping out of ocean

Dolphins

Dolphins are animals. They are divided into five families, the largest of which is the ocean dolphin (which contains thirty-eight species). The remaining four families all have only one species each, with three of them being river dolphin families.

Intelligence 

Dolphins are among the most intelligent non-human animals on the planet. According to studies of their intellect, they appear to be able to mimic, have self-awareness, solve problems, have empathy, and feel sadness as well as happiness. 

Appearance

Dolphins are slenderer and more elegant than sharks. They can range in size from six to 31 feet long. The biggest dolphin is an orca, often known as a killer whale. These huge predators might weigh up to 11 short tons and are usually considered one of the top predators in the world’s seas.

They can swim at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour through the ocean, hunting with long beaks or jaws. In comparison to sharks, they have a more defined grin.

The spinner dolphin has a variable number of teeth, ranging from 14 to 240 in the mouth of the spinner dolphin. The size and arrangement of their teeth varies by species. Cone-shaped teeth are common among ocean dolphins and are used for catching fish.

Habitat

Dolphins spend the bulk of their life near the surface of the water. This is because dolphins, like humans, require air to survive. They come up for a purpose: to use their blowholes, which are located at the top of their heads.

They can be found in all of the world’s seas and oceans, as well as coastal regions and even shallower water. The majority of species enjoy a warmer environment.

dolphins swimming

Diet 

The common term for a school of fish is a bait ball, and it’s when dolphins herding them. A pod herds a school of fish into a tiny group, commonly known as a bait ball. Individual members then swim through the group of fish, feeding as they choose.

Bottlenose dolphins and orcas have also been recorded stranding prey on a beach to consume it. This is one of the primary distinctions between dolphins and sharks. Sharks, as solitary animals, must use different hunting methods in order to capture their food.

Fish, squid, and jellyfish are some of the dolphin’s favorite foods. Because dolphins may be found all across the world, they will consume whatever fish they encounter. This can vary from region to region.

Dolphins employ echolocation while hunting, much like bats. They may search for prey by way of reflected sound, or echos. This can be utilized to identify food and gain insight into its dimensions as well as other characteristics.

Because sharks are unable to vocalize, they are silent. They have highly developed hearing, enabling them to detect prey via low-frequency sound, which they hone in on and then smash into their target. After focusing in and then smashing into their intended meal, stunning it with their strong jaws, they sometimes launch out of the water as a pair.

Reproduction

One calf is born at a time among dolphins. Their nine- to sixteen-month pregnancies are lengthy. The youngsters remain with their moms for several years, learning everything they need to know to survive from their mothers. Dolphins may live up to 80 years old.

shark eating dolphin
A rare image of a shark eating a dolphin

Sharks

Sharks, unlike dolphins, are fish that spend the majority of their lives under the sea. They have been divided into 500 different species, ranging from dwarf lanternsharks to whale sharks, with a range of sizes in between. The world’s biggest fish is the whale shark, which can measure up to 40 feet long.

Intelligence 

Sharks have been represented as mindless killers in the past. This is far from the truth. Their brain size is comparable, in terms of their total body mass, to that of mammals, according to scientists.

They’re smart and learn complex behaviors. They make use of intricate hunting routines, as well as social learning (which means they may learn from seeing other sharks).

Appearance

Sharks, in particular the great white shark, may be found in a wide range of colors and forms. The majority of sharks are drab gray with vertically pointed tails, pointed snouts, and triangular teeth. Sharks do not have a swim bladder as is commonly believed; rather, they must swim continuously throughout their lives to avoid sinking and dying.

Many sharks, such as hammerheads and megamouths, have more unusual head forms. While tiger sharks are known for their distinctive markings. Sharks vary in length from only 6 inches (the dwarf lanternshark) to over 40 feet long (the whale shark).

shark swimming in ocean

Habitat 

Sharks, like dolphins, can be found in all of the planet’s seas. They usually do not reside in freshwater, however there are some exceptions such as the bull shark, which may be found in both saltwater and fresh water.

Diet 

Certain sharks are referred to as apex predators. This implies they are the primary predator at the top of their ecosystem’s food chain. The great white shark, hammerhead shark, tiger shark, and blue shark are all apex sharks.

The great white shark and the orca are often linked as the most hazardous fish in the world’s seas. Orcas have been seen to catch and consume sharks while working in groups. Scientists believe that orcas hunted down and killed the megalodon, according on evidence.

Reproduction

Internal fertilization is utilized by almost all sharks. Others, such as the chimera and skate, lay eggs. Parthenogenesis has been observed in species like bonnethead sharks and blacktips.

However, most sharks reproduce via two organs known as “claspers,” which are connected to a male’s anal fins. When they mate, they insert one of these under the female’s cloaca to transfer their sperm.

Dolphin Fins vs. Shark Fins

Sharks and dolphins have several features in common, including the form and number of fins. Sharks and dolphins both have tail fins, pectoral fins, and dorsal fins, to mention a few examples. Read more about these differences in our post, Shark vs Dolphin Fin.

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