With interests in science and nature, the author explores topics from a unique and sometimes controversial perspective.
What Eats a Great White Shark?
If Megalodon were around today, there is no doubt even a predator like the great white would be in danger. The biggest white shark ever documented was just a bit over 21-feet, though they are speculated to get larger. But Megalodon reached 60 feet or bigger, dwarfing the great white and any other predatory shark in the world today.
But Megalodon went extinct long ago, so when a story began to circulate about a nine-foot white shark that was apparently attacked and eaten by a larger predator it raised a lot of questions. What kind of beast would, or could, do such a thing? The clip is attached to a documentary called Hunt for the Super Predator that aired on the Smithsonian Channel.
I've gotten a lot of questions in the comments section of my Megalodon shark article regarding my opinion on this unprecedented predatory attack. I find it intriguing and since people have asked I'll offer a few thoughts.
Be aware that this post only represents my theories and opinions, and none of my conclusions are necessarily supported by anyone involved with the actual research into this event.
Let's get to the bottom of it. What would prey upon a 9-foot great white shark?
Proof of a Super Predator
The great white at the center of this story was tagged in 2003. When the tag eventually washed up on shore it told a bizarre tale of the shark's final minutes. The bottom line: Something is out there capable of preying upon large sharks.
The information collected by the tag revealed three interesting pieces of evidence.
- The shark abruptly dove—or was dragged—down the wall of the Continental Shelf to a depth of about 580 meters, or 1,900 feet.
- The temperate rose 32 degrees, indicating it (at least the tag if not the whole shark) was devoured by some other creature.
- For 8 days whatever ate the shark roamed between the surface and 330 feet before the tag left the body.
Before we dig into the world of cryptozoology let's consider some known creatures that are possible suspects in this case.
The information above tells us whatever did this is capable of diving fairly deep, and big enough to take on a great white. It also tells us the beast does not spend all of its time at tremendous depths, since following the attack the creature came back closer to the surface, and at least for the next 8 days did not dive deeper than 330 feet.
So how do the possible suspects stack up against this information? Let's take a look at them one by one.
Orca (Killer Whale)
Killer whales are known to attack great whites. They are highly intelligent and fierce animals, and a pod of killer whales is a formidable adversary even a large great white would likely avoid.
It's possible killer whales may pursue a great white as a food item, but also possible they may have sought to exterminate it if they felt it was threatening the pod or the young.
This would seem to lend some credence to a chase down the wall of the Continental Shelf. Is it theoretically possible that white sharks dive deep in response to threats from whales and this explains the chase? Great whites have been documented diving up to 4,000 feet.
Read More From Exemplore
Whatever happened, the attacker didn't give up and eventually devoured the shark at the bottom of its dive. But one question remains on the Orca hypothesis: Can they really dive that deep? Killer whales are surface hunters and rarely dive deeper than a few hundred feet to forage. Does the recorded depth of 1,900 feet rule out the killer whale?
Sperm whales are huge predators and can dive down to around 8,000 feet. Such a whale would also return to the surface after the fight. But do sperm whales eat sharks?
White sharks are not a normal part of their diet, but at a length of up to 60 feet, a full-grown whale might take the opportunity if the shark made itself available. Or, like the Orca scenario above, perhaps it chased the shark down the slope because it saw the shark as a threat.
One thing that works against the sperm whale hypothesis is that we'd expect to see a whale sound again over an 8-day period, which it did not. However, if it were a pod protecting young, they would have good reason to stay closer to the surface.
Another chilling thought: There once lived a Sperm-whale relative called Livyatan Melvillei that certainly could have taken down a full-grown Great White. It possessed 12-inch teeth and would have given even the mighty Megalodon a run for its money. Is such a whale still out there somewhere?
We don't know how big colossal squid can get, but they do lurk in the oceans south of Australia. The largest known specimen measured over 30 feet long and weighed over a thousand pounds. They are believed to get even bigger.
Despite their size, colossal and giant Squid are generally prey items of sperm whales and even great white sharks. They eat fish, primarily. Then again, a shark is a fish.
This presents a couple of scenarios. In the first, the shark preys upon the squid, pursues it to a great depth, then loses the ensuing battle and gets eaten.
In the second scenario, the squid comes to the surface and attacks the shark, then drags it into the depths to consume it. We have to think this would be one tremendous squid to overpower a 9-foot great white.
The one thing that counters the colossal squid idea is how the creature came back to the surface following the attack. Some squid exhibit diurnal vertical migration, meaning they stay in the depths during daylight and rise to the surface at night. Even if the colossal squid exhibited this, it should have returned to the deep at some point during the 8 days after the attack.
Bigger Great White Shark
Is it possible another even bigger great white may have eaten the 9-foot shark? I believe this is the conclusion eventually reached in the documentary. As I stated at the outset, the largest great white on record measures over 21 feet, but there is anecdotal evidence that they can reach 30 feet or more.
Such a shark would certainly match all of the criteria outlined by the tag data. And there is some evidence that great whites may attack and kill, if not consume, each other.
This seems the most likely explanation. However, it does raise other chilling questions. How big was this shark, and how big do great whites get?
Did Megalodon Kill the Great White Shark?
Okay, this is why you're here, isn't it? There are a lot of people suggesting that this attack on a white shark is proof that Megalodon is still out there. I suspect people who are asking me about this are hoping I have come to the same conclusion.
Megalodon was certainly big enough to do the job. Many speculate if the shark somehow managed to survive extinction Megalodon now lives in very deep water.
Could this have been a Megalodon attack on a great white shark? Does this kind of thing happen more often than we think, and this is the first time it's been documented?
The thing that did this was a super predator, and Megalodon certainly fits any definition of a super predator. Evidence supports at least the distant idea that some huge, unknown predator committed this attack.
However, I don't feel nearly confident enough to suggest whatever did this was a Megalodon Shark. It seems pretty clear that Megalodon went extinct long ago, and there are simply too many other logical possibilities.
What Eats Great White Sharks?
I wrote this post in response to some questions I had been getting regarding my opinion on all of this, particularly as it relates to the possible involvement of the Megalodon Shark.
I have to again state that none of my thoughts or theories are necessarily supported by the researchers involved in the making of Hunt for the Super Predator or the Smithsonian Channel. In fact, you may want to check out the Smithsonian Channel page about this show and see what conclusions you come up with for yourself
Our list of suspects above consists of some terrifying beasts, including a few that may or may not even exist. Whatever did this had to be huge, powerful, and able to dive to some impressive depths.
Is it possible there is some other sea monster out there that would see a 9-foot great white shark as prey? Perhaps this is the first evidence of some massive, undiscovered creature we can barely imagine.
Great White Shark vs Megalodon or Something Else?
Questions & Answers
Question: Could the megalodon shark eat a whale?
Answer: The megalodon shark not only could eat whales, but did as the main part of its diet. This shark was a huge predator with an incredibly powerful bite.The megalodon shark not only could eat whales, but did as a main part of its diet. It could easily attack the largest marine mammals of its day, such as whales.
Could it kill a modern blue whale? Probably. Blue whales grow close to 100 feet long and weigh over 170 tons, dwarfing even the mighty megalodon. But, like the great white shark, megalodon was most likely an ambush predator, lurking in the depths and coming up to attack. It could attack whales much larger than itself by first disabling it with a bite to the fin or tail.
In addition to whales, megalodon also preyed on prehistoric dolphins, seals, sea turtles and large fish. Really, this shark ate whatever it wanted, and as long as it was a significant source of calories, it was probably on the menu.
However, there was one prehistoric whale that gave megalodon a run for its money. Leviathan Melvillei was a huge whale about the same size as meg, but with teeth measuring a foot long. This is quite a bit larger than megalodon teeth, the largest of which is only about seven inches.
Leviathan Melvillei and the megalodon shark occupied the same area during the same period, and very likely competed for food sources. In fact, it’s possible they even preyed on each other from time to time. It’s interesting to ponder what might have happened when these two monsters met.
jack stone on July 20, 2019:
i have posted this information previously on a different site.Back in the mid 1970's I kept a 42' sportfish at stamford marina (CT) We would routinely travel to the atlantic ocean to fish usually spending a week or more at montalk. On one trip out to an area about 40 miles offshore we were drift fishing in about 600' when we saw a VERY large creature swimming by. At first we thought it to be a whale,but noticed it had a large dorsal fin as well as vertical flukes.The visable part of the creature was dark in color and seemed to have rough "skin" It left the area pretty quick and when we told some other people about it at montalk they just grinned except for some guy named frank mundus..Still don't know what we saw and never saw anything like it again .I have spent more than 50 years fishing the oceans of the world (for pleasure)..Pretty certain it was not a whale !
aaron on December 10, 2018:
if this is megalodon it may be it there is no proof that it ate it and we don't know if it still lives
Seabreeze on August 12, 2018:
I think it might be possible for a megladon to exist because we have not explored all of the ocean meaning the deeper parts as are diving equipment is not good enough to go deeper for a longer stretch of time
Al Neworth on January 24, 2018:
I think you may have missed a different explanation. Great Whites often exhibit scars from other whites. Could it be that the 9-footer was engaged in mating, and only the tag was swallowed? Or perhaps it detached, and was swallowed, possibly by the 9-footer itself.
This should be an alternative among the voters’ options, I think.
searching2 on January 20, 2016:
Yes, Cryptid 2, as you say...you never know, there may be a remnant aquatic reptile of some kind in our oceans. I have daily press clippings from the 1980's that state there have been over 40 reported sightings of a large plesiosaur type animal in southern Australian waters over the past few years.
Fisherman off Warrnambool reported a 65 foot long animal with a snake like head, a scaly body, a neck two foot thick and two sets of flippers about 10 feet long kept pace with their fishing boat under full power.
There have been 100's of reports of these animals all around the coast of Australia. Over the years, there have also been a number of encounters in Sydney's Hawkesbury River.
Certainly a 65 foot animal would have no trouble taking on and eating a mere 9 foot white shark. Food for thought... :-))
cryptid (author) from USA on November 12, 2015:
Hi Levius. You make some excellent points. I left your first comment there because I think what you said about the squid is important. Breaking it down, it is certainly easy to rule out a few of these suspects.
As for a remnant aquatic reptile of some kind, you never know. Though I think a population of such creatures would be seen at or near the water surface from time to time, as they would need to breath air.
Levius on November 11, 2015:
The orcas, sperm whales, and giant squids couldn't have killed the shark. But still the megalodon too can't be the likely suspect. Megs got a wide mouth but the still needed to chew and tear their prey apart in which case leaves the tag in a damaged condition.
The most likely suspect is an unknown superpredator which appears to be reptilian in nature just like the prehistoric sea monsters but evolved to be more bigger and specialized capable of eating a great white whole.
Levius234 on November 11, 2015:
I think i'll go with the unknown superpredator vote. Judging from the explanations and the clues, I think the predator would be reptilian in nature or some hybrid shark or something like that. Giant squids or sperm whales are out of the question.
Squids use their beak like mouth to kill and dismember their prey. But the fact that the tracker remains unharmed leaves it out of the equation.
As for sperm whales, their teeth are designed to latch and grip and would leave the tracker in a damaged state. One more thing is that a sperm whale's teeth are smaller and their mouth are also too small unable to swallow a 3 meter long shark whole.
kendal on March 14, 2015:
I agree with the Megalodon theory. I think there is a possibility that they are out there and that some kind of change in the ocean whether it be a change in the temoerature of the water or the level of the water could possibly be bringing them up out of where they have been hiding all these years. I have been studying sharks since i was really little and they have always been my favorite animal. I am hoping to get out and jump in the water with thegreat whites soon but would really like to find further evidence of the megalodon. But i do think it is a great possibility it was a megalodon that ate Alpha. What else would be big enough to apeat a 9ft great white and leave the tag in good condition? It would have to be a big enough animal to almost completely swallow the shark whole. A sperm whale? While they are large in size they would not be able to swallow a 9ft great white and have the tag remain in good enough condition. An orka wouldn't even likely be a possibility. They wouldn't swallow a shark of this size and leave the tag in tact. Giant squid also woldnt likely be a possibility and a larger great white? Highly unlikely. While they can and do swallow things whole it us unlikely they would be able to swallow a 9ft shark whole and leave the tag in good condition. Leaving you with 2 options... Megalodon and some other monster undescovered.
cryptid (author) from USA on June 29, 2014:
Thanks, CMHypno. I like think there's possibly some unknown monster out there too, but I agree that there is probably a more logical explanation.
CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on June 29, 2014:
I actually like the fact we still don't know everything about our planet. My logical minds says the most likely explanation is a much bigger Great White Shark, but part of me would real love it to be some never before seen monstrous creature that lurks in the depths of our oceans. Great hub
cryptid (author) from USA on June 14, 2014:
Thanks MJ! I hold out hope too, but, well ... you know. :-)
@Tom: I see what you're saying. There's also the possibility that something could have somehow swallowed the tracking device after it fell off the shark, and the shark is still alive and well.
Who knows? Interesting to ponder though.
Tom Schumacher from Huntington Beach, CA on June 14, 2014:
Nice hub! My fascination with great white sharks extends back 20+ years. This report by David Riggs, however, I found difficult to accept for face value because I find it rather odd the tracking device washed ashore. Seriously, and referring to line item #3 under “The Evidence” subheading, is it not more likely this piece of technology would have been lost to the vast ocean? As for a Megalodon, there is no empirical evidence proving these prehistoric creatures still exist today. Though, and to the contrary, Orcas are known predators of great white sharks. Thus, if this tracking monitor did indeed wash ashore a killer whale attack is the most probable of all theories presented.
Marcy J. Miller from Arizona on June 14, 2014:
Interesting material, Cryptid. As usual, I'm hoping there is still a Megalodon out there somewhere -- that perhaps, Coelocanth-like, one has survived (and really, if there's ONE, wouldn't there likely be more?) Of course, I think even the "evidence" could mean many different things other than a giant predator dragging and devouring a large shark. Still, hope springs eternal …
Best -- Mj
cryptid (author) from USA on June 12, 2014:
Interesting point, Seraho. However, while sharks are indeed cold-blooded, sharks of the family Lamnidae have a system that allows them to raise their body temperature well above that of the surrounding water. They are endothermic, in fact, and therefore if another White Shark ate this 9-foot shark we can expect a rise in temperature.
While disputed, most researchers put Megalodon in the family Lamnidae, and even the genus Carcharodon, which would make it closely related to the Great White. Therefore, we'd expect it to have the same endothermic body temp regulation system.
Seraho on June 11, 2014:
If the Megalodon still does exist it would be thought be a cold blooded creature depending if all it really was an enormous shark. Which doesn't explain why the data on the tag attached to the shark shockingly went up to 70 degrees or higher from 46 degrees in a depth of 300 feet. It seems to me that this creature would have to be a large enough mammal.
cryptid (author) from USA on June 11, 2014:
Understood, tsadjatko. I appreciate your remarks, and I'm glad I could save you some time. :-)
The Logician from then to now on on June 11, 2014:
Some, I agree they are the minority, don't believe what they want to believe when the evidence is not there, and then there are some who exploit situations to take advantage of those who believe what they want to believe (there are extinct monsters) despite evidence to the contrary, usually just to make money. (in this case you don't need to imagine an extinct monster to explain what happened)
I'm referring to the Smithsonian, not you.
Nat Geo does it too simply to get people to watch an hour show that winds up never solving any question it promoted as solving, leaving the viewer wondering why he wasted his time watching this crap, until of course he is in a store and remembers "Ah, this is the product I saw advertised on Nat Geo".
That said, I hope you understand I have no criticism of your writing here and actually believe you have done an excellent job of presenting and discussing the topic and I am so happy I could read it in a couple minutes instead of wasting an hour watching a show waiting to see real evidence that an extinct "monster" exists. :-)
cryptid (author) from USA on June 11, 2014:
I respect your opinion and you make good points, but everyone sees the world in a different way. Ultimately, we all believe what we want to believe.
The Logician from then to now on on June 11, 2014:
This video is just a marketing tool for the Smithsonian channel show "Hunt for the Super Predator" and so of course they want you to believe some undiscovered monster is the cause so you'll watch the show. Just like the Bigfoot shows that promote themselves in a way that makes you think they actually have found evidence for bigfoot (for which there is no conclusive evidence of his existence despite thousands of so called eyewitness accounts that are always vague and lacking proof) this is just a ruse.
There are no undiscovered monsters lurking and there are always explanations for stuff these trumped up shows promote solely to make money from a gullible and uninformed public that wants to believe in monsters.
cryptid (author) from USA on June 11, 2014:
@ Sheila: I agree about not wanting to run into it, whatever it was.
@Dognip5: Very logical breakdown. Thanks for adding your thoughts!
Dognip5 on June 11, 2014:
Knew it was a Megalodon when I first heard about it :) Orca's do not dive that deep, their body is not meant for that kind of pressure, nor do they have the power to move that fast. Ether a giant squid or colossal could be possible but very doubtful, because the creature stayed close to the surface for days after and that's not a characteristic of those two squids types. A Sperm whale didn't do it ether, their teeth and mouth evolved in such a way to eat squid. Yes they can kill a great white easily but they still can not consume one. Another bigger great white shark could not have dived that fast ether so I am crossing that out. That leaves ether a Megalodon or some huge ass undiscovered species that is most likely the cause of our beloved Alpha's death. I'm leaning towards Meg because the evidence from the tracker suggest she was swallowed whole.
sheilamyers on June 10, 2014:
I'm not sure what it could be, but it seems to me, by your various descriptions, each of the known animals are rules out even though there may be scientific explanations for the unusual behavior recorded by the tag. All I can be sure about is I wouldn't want to run into whatever is big and strong enough to take on and beat a 9 foot great white shark.
cryptid (author) from USA on June 09, 2014:
Thanks Wesman. I'm not sure how valid the Sperm Whale theory is, but they are huge predators found in those waters, and capable of diving to great depths. I suppose the answer would rest in how often they would prey on something like a White Shark, which I suspect is not often.
Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on June 09, 2014:
Very good article about a very interesting and current topic. I didn't know a sperm whale was a possible here, so I was proud to get that information.