What is the Largest Predator That Ever Lived?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
The massive size of the extinct Megalodon shark can be inferred by the size of its teeth.
The massive size of the extinct Megalodon shark can be inferred by the size of its teeth.

What the largest predator that ever lived is depends on what a person considers to be a predator. There are various definitions of predation, but it's safe to say that anything that consumes other animals for food is a predator. Under this broad definition, the largest that ever lived is the blue whale, which consumes several tons of plankton every day. Plankton includes both algae and organisms such as krill.

The blue whale, which can reach 98 ft in length, is the largest animal ever known to have lived.
The blue whale, which can reach 98 ft in length, is the largest animal ever known to have lived.

The blue whale weighs up to 200 short tons (180 metric tons) and individuals up to 98 ft (29.9 m) in length have been found. It is thought to be not just the largest predator that ever lived, but the largest animal in general. A whale that filters krill with its baleen is not generally what people think of when they hear the word "predator," however. The sperm whale may come closer, being the largest toothed animal. With a size up to 67 ft (20.5 m) long, the sperm whale eats fish and several types of squid.

The 59 ft long Spinosaurus primarily ate fish.
The 59 ft long Spinosaurus primarily ate fish.

There are also at least three other very large predators that have a chance of vying for the title if whales are excluded: an unidentified pliosaur called the Monster of Aramberri, which was about 49 ft (15 m) in length (contrary to earlier exaggerated estimates); Spinosaurus, the largest known predatory dinosaur, at 59 ft (18 m) long; and the titanic shark Megalodon, at 60 ft (18.2 m). The most terrifying are the last two, which had tremendous bulk and would have needed to eat many other animals to sustain themselves.

The sperm whale is the largest living toothed animal.
The sperm whale is the largest living toothed animal.

Spinosaurus was a huge theropod dinosaur with a large tail sail and an elongated, crocodilian skull. It was the largest predator of the Mesozoic, weighing in at 7.7 to 9.9 short tons (7 to 9 metric tons), and lived during the Cretaceous period, 100 to 93 million years ago. A few skeletal fragments have been found in Egypt and Morocco. It primarily ate fish, though it would have consumed small herbivores and scavenged for carrion.

Many people consider Megalodon to be the most ferocious predator of all time. This was a shark so huge that the height of its tail fin approximately equals the length of a Great White Shark. Its teeth, which still wash up on shores occasionally, are larger than a man's fist. Megalodon lived between 18 and 1.5 million years ago, quite recent in evolutionary terms, which has prompted some crytozoologists to hypothesize it might still be alive, though no evidence has been found to this effect.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Discussion Comments

anon115940

what about L.ferox?

anon96298

What about predator x? Didn't it grow as big as a sperm whale and weigh more?

anon56135

Suggesting that the Monster of Aramberri was somewhere 15 and 18 m, was a young animal and possessed marks teeth on his skull indicating a 40 cm crown for the tooth of the aggressor, we can think that this mysterious species (sometimes called Liopleurodon gigas) was the largest predator that ever lived, having 5 m jaws and probably exceeding 25 m in length. The creatures of the BBC were not really fiction.

Megalodon was also very big, since few years, they found bigger teeth of this shark and its size has been estimated with more and more modern techniques.

Actually, scientists agreed that Megalodon exceeded 17 m and was more than 50 tons in weight. The absolute maximum possible size is around 20 m and almost 100 tons. Megalodon was definitely as big or bigger than a bull sperm whale, with incredible powerful jaws (between 11 and 20 tons of crushing power). Large pliosaurs had comparable bite.

anon39998

Megalodon 80-100ft 45+tons easily taking your whales for a one time thrill ride.

anon29288

The Liopleurodon isn't estimated any where near 90+ feet on any website I've seen. It was only in a Walking with Dinosaurs special in 1999. They estimated it closer to about 35 feet.

My vote is also with sperm whales... until they can prove how big Megalodon is (people range from 33 to 60 ft) I'll stick with the documented. Though I think I would be more willing to get in the water with a sperm whale since "they say" Megalodon was extremely aggressive.

anon29087

Actually the largest predator ever was Liouplredon, it got 90ft+. It's possible that it even got 100ft. Its mouth was 20ft long.

anon24115

You forgot sperm whales. Males measuring in at 67 feet and weighing 56 tons. And anything that eats giant squids can only be regarded as a predator.

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    • The massive size of the extinct Megalodon shark can be inferred by the size of its teeth.
      The massive size of the extinct Megalodon shark can be inferred by the size of its teeth.
    • The blue whale, which can reach 98 ft in length, is the largest animal ever known to have lived.
      The blue whale, which can reach 98 ft in length, is the largest animal ever known to have lived.
    • The 59 ft long Spinosaurus primarily ate fish.
      The 59 ft long Spinosaurus primarily ate fish.
    • The sperm whale is the largest living toothed animal.
      The sperm whale is the largest living toothed animal.