Though living in different waters, it is beyond doubt that these two marine monsters might have met; either in search of food or territory to claim. But who would survive a bite from the other and who wouldn’t?
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Also called a white pointer, the great white shark is the largest predatory fish on the planet. It is blue-gray on the dorsal/top part of their body with a white belly/ventral part. This shark’s heavy torpedo-shaped body is supplemented with tremendous jaws armored with large, sharply pointed serrated teeth. The GWS has a conical shaped snout, large pectoral and dorsal fins, and a large well-built crescent-shaped tail.
Saltwater crocodiles are the largest living reptiles on earth. They have a large head with a pair of ridges that run from the eyes along the center of the snout. Their scales are oval with bony plates – scutes – smaller than those of other species. Adult salties are dark with light tan to gray areas. Their ventral surface is white or yellow and their flattened tail is gray with darker bands.
Fully grown GWS can weigh between 1500 to 4000 pounds (680-1800kg) however, there are records of some reaching 5000 pounds (2270kg). They can grow to an average length of 15 feet (4.5 meters) although some specimens exceed 20 feet (6 meters).
Salties can grow to average weight and length of 1000 pounds (453kg) and 17 feet (5.1 meters), but some weighing up to 2200 pounds (1000kg) with a body length of 23 feet (6.5 meters) are not uncommon.
Great white sharks are highly distributed in the coastal waters of the northeastern and western United States, Chile, northern Japan, New Zealand, southern Australia, and Africa, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. They have a preference for temperate coastal waters where prey is abundant.
Saltwater crocs are common in Western Australia, southern Asia, eastern India, New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands. They inhabit coastal marshes, mangrove swamps, and open oceans. They can also tolerate freshwater regions such as rivers and swamps.
Great whites can live almost as long as humans, achieving up to 70 years or more in natural habitats. This is also similar to salties which can live for more than 70 years in the wild.
The great white shark is warm-blooded, a peculiar adaptation among sharks which enables it to cruise in very cold waters while conserving heat generated through the contraction of muscles. Although little is known about their social behavior, they are predominantly solitary and territorial, assuming dominance hierarchies around their feeding zones. Some may reside around these feeding zones while others opt to migrate widely.
Contrarily, saltwater crocodiles are intelligent creatures who communicate through barks, hisses, growls, or chirps. Males are territorial and defend their territories fiercely against other males. They use thermoregulation to maintain body temperatures by occasionally basking in the sun to heat up and cooling themselves in water.
Sharks have no organs for producing sound. They are stealth ghost-like monsters that creep their way through the oceans. However, according to research, they are attracted to external sounds that seem to make them less aggressive, perhaps due to their curiosity. Great whites are no exception from other shark species and have evolved as extremely silent predators.
Nonetheless, saltwater crocodiles make a variety of noises including barks, hisses, growls, grunts, bellows, and chirps. During courtship, a bellow, which is a long, low growl, is let out to advertise their presence or communicate their size as females only accept males larger than themselves. Hissing or coughing sounds are made at intruders to warn them of their territories while juveniles make hatching calls which consist of low grunting and barking noises or quacks after hatching. Adult salties also make grunting noises while communicating with their young. New studies have shown that crocodiles make deep underwater booming sounds described as a “beat like drums” though its purpose is not yet properly understood.
The GWS search their prey at the surface of the ocean while swimming below. They largely prey on sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles, small whales, seals, and other sharks too. They are also opportunistic scavengers who may feed on carcasses of whales and basking sharks.
Salties will feed on anything they can get their jaws on from water buffalo, monkeys, wild boars, wallabies, cattle, birds, and even sharks. They are indiscriminate. They are also known to attack humans partly as a result of their territorial instincts and often mistaking them for a submerged log due to their camouflaging patterns.
The great whites can reach maximum speeds of 35mph (56 km/h) and swim to depths of over 3900 feet (1200 meters). However, they are not the fastest in their species and reach these speeds only in short bursts.
Although saltwater crocs are slow on land, they can achieve speeds of 15 to 18mph (24-29 km/h) in the water in short bursts which is around three times as fast as the fastest human swimmer, Michael Phelps, whose speed is about 6 mph. When cruising, salties travel at 2-3mph (3-5 km/h).
The GWS is well adapted for hunting. The blue-gray color allows them to blend in with the bottom of the ocean and their white underbellies prevent them from being visible from below, with the sun shining around them. They are ambush predators that use their burst of speed sending their prey out of the water or the shark into the air in case they miss a target.
Saltwater crocodiles wait for potential prey to stop by patiently beneath the surface near the water’s edge. They then unanticipatedly launch at their victim with a thrash of their powerful tails and drag them back underwater and hold them until they drown. However, they do not swallow underwater as this would open the valves that seal their mouths and drown them as well.
Who Would Win?
A snout to snout fight between these two apex predators would primarily involve teeth therefore, let’s first find out whose weapons are superior to the other, and then we can determine our champ.
A white pointer has 3000 teeth in about five rows, where the first two rows are for grabbing and cutting prey while the rest replace worn out or broken front teeth in a struggle. They can consume up to about 20 to 30 pounds of flesh with one chomp. The strength of their bite is estimated to be 1 ton per square inch, nearly about 4000 pounds psi which is over 20 times greater than a human’s bite.
A salty, on the other hand, has 66 teeth with 18 on each side of the upper jaw and 15 on each side of the lower jaw. Though lacking in number compared to the sharks, their force is not to be underestimated. Salties can achieve tooth pressures of up to 350000 pounds per square inch. This is oddly tremendous for the highest bite force to ever be recorded. In addition, they slam their jaws shut with 3700 pounds of force per square inch.
Well, given that both are ambush predators, the fight can go either way depending on who sees who first as they would have the advantage of sneaking their first lethal bite. On rather normal occasions, the white pointer would spot the salty first who is often a surface cruiser. This would give the GWS an opportunity to launch to the surface with a shattering blow leaving deep laceration on the salty’s underbelly. This leaves the salty with gashing wounds making it unable to launch an attack. The shark would then proceed to maul the salty and tear it apart.
Alternatively, a basking salty watching the shoreline could spot ripples produced by a cruising great white who is just about his business. The salty would then dive in prepared to strike at the unarmored skin of the great white. Although it may not be able to administer an immense bite, following a blow from the shark’s tail, a second strike would target the shark’s fins, immobilizing it and making it bleed profusely from two wounds. The great white would eventually give up the fight.