World’s deadliest predators: The lethal animals that can kill in seconds

How does the world’s most aggressive crocodile compare to America’s mammoth alligator? Is the bear king of the Arctic more deadly than the mighty grizzly? And was Jaws right, or are killer whales the ocean’s true apex predator? We pit some of the planet’s most powerful creatures against each other to see how their hunting skills stack up…

Crocodile vs. Alligator

Comfortably the world’s largest reptile, the saltwater crocodile is an extremely successful predator. Equipped with bony armour, beefy muscularity and a lethal bite force, they are able to overwhelm even the largest prey that live in their ecosystem. Most of their hunting is done during the evening and at night, when they will wait partially submerged before ambushing their prey. Once their prey is within reach, saltwater crocodiles strike without warning. Small prey can be swallowed whole, but larger creatures are first incapacitated by a death roll – the crocodile bites down hard on its prey before flipping into the water. This technique is repeated once the victim has drowned to tear it into manageable chunks.

Once considered an endangered species, the American alligator is now thriving. They are stealthy predators and often float along the water, camouflaged as a drifting lump of wood. Like the saltwater crocodile, these gators are immensely powerful – their strong jaws can crack through a turtle’s shell – and they will eat almost anything, including a human, if they are hungry enough.

Saltwater crocodile vs. American alligator
Saltwater crocodile vs. American alligator

Polar vs. Grizzly

Is the king of the Arctic more deadly than the mighty grizzly?

The polar bear has no equal in the Arctic, roaming fearlessly in its hunt for food. There is no tougher environment to thrive in and life can be challenging when trying to meet insatiable hunger. The polar bear’s favourite snack is a ringed seal which is packed full of energy-rich blubber that is key to their survival. They hunt with a variety of techniques, from roaming fearlessly in its hunt for food. sneakily swimming up to their prey, to waiting at seal breathing holes in the ice.

Like the polar bear, the grizzly tends to live in solitude; it has no need to form packs or clans due to its ferocious defensive capabilities. They eat lots of nuts and berries, but can take down large animals with their immense strength. Dramatic gatherings of grizzlies are rarely seen, but you can guarantee to spot them when the salmon begin to swim upstream before spawning in the summer months. This chance to feast on valuable fat and vitamins is too good to miss, and will help sustain them for the coming winter months.

Polar bear vs. Grizzly bear
Polar bear vs. Grizzly bear

Great white shark vs. Killer whale

If you happened to be a creature on the great white shark’s menu, then the proverb “out of sight, out of mind” wouldn’t provide much comfort. Its super- sensitive snout is covered in sensory cells, enabling it to sniff out a seal colony from over three kilometres (two miles) away. Lurking below the surface to conceal its immense size – averaging 4.6 metres (15 feet) in length – the great white waits for an opening before torpedoing vertically through the water at fin-tastic speeds of up to 40 kilometres (25 miles) per hour. They use their sharp teeth almost as disposable weapons; losing a few with every attack they perform. There are several rows of teeth behind the heavily-used front row, all ready and waiting to replace any that they lose. They can get through as many as 30,000-50,000 teeth in a lifetime!

The killer whale, however, is said to be more deadly than even the great white shark. They possess brainpower to match their brawn, with most scientists agreeing that these wondrous animals are capable of complex communication and even self-awareness. Their hunting techniques make the most of their intelligence and often involve ganging up on seals and knocking them off ice floes by creating a wave with their tails. They work together to prevent the seal from clambering aboard another ice block, creating underwater turbulence to disorientate it before eventually catching its prey and drowning it in the ocean’s depths.

Great white shark vs. Killer whale
Great white shark vs. Killer whale

Discover more of the world’s deadliest predators, including the komodo dragon, cheetah and trapdoor spider, in Issue 76 of How It Works magazine. Pick up a copy from all good retailers, or order it online from the ImagineShop. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, make sure you subscribe today!

Plus, make sure you enter our competition to win a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with one of the ocean’s deadliest predators, the sand tiger shark!

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