Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans


Are all sharks Apex Predators?

by Dorien Schröder, Dutch Shark Society

Seal eats blue shark, picture by Chris Fallows

Seal eats blue shark, picture by Chris Fallows

Sharks are often called apex predators. But is this really true? An apex predator is an animal who, as an adult, has no natural predator within its ecosystem. The great white shark for instance is an apex predator in almost every coastal zone. However, off the Californian coast it can fall prey to the orca that rolls it over to exploit the sharks’ tonic immobility, and with the shark in this trance, they kill it and eats its liver. Orcas are apex predators in all the regions they occur in.
There are a few other species that are known to prey on shark species usually referred to as apex predators. Cape fur seals for instance have been seen hunting blue sharks in False Bay, South Africa, eating their livers and other internal organs.

Recently in California, a few sea lions were seen killing and eating thresher sharks. Sea lions are opportunistic feeders and will therefore not hesitate killing and eating a shark if they get the chance.


A seal eats a thresher shark. Picture by Slater Moore


Besides orcas, seals and sea lions, species such as octopus, sperm whales and even mooray eels are known to kill and eat sharks. Also smaller shark species such as the cookie cutter shark will take the chance to take a bite out of the larger species. This just goes to show that the hunter can easily become the hunted and sharks are not always the apex predator of an ecosystem.


Octopus eats shark, picture by Fred Bavendam

Octopus eats shark, picture by Fred Bavendam

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