Orcas hunt Great White Sharks

Orcas hunt Great White Sharks

Fri, 21/10/2022 - 15:05
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Footage shows pod of orcas killing a great white shark and devouring its liver.

For several years, scientists have suspected that orcas have been killing and eating parts of great white sharks. Now, they have video evidence to prove it.

New drone and helicopter footage show a pod of orcas ruthlessly pursuing a great white shark in Mossel Bay, South Africa for more than an hour before going in for the kill. The video culminates with one of the killer whales gobbling up a large chunk of the shark's liver.

The footage may shed new light on the way white sharks try to evade orca attacks: staying within sight of their predator. That is a common strategy used by seals and tortoises to evade sharks, the researchers said. But that circling approach is probably ineffective for escaping orcas, which are social mammals and hunt in groups, cornering their prey, the scientists wrote.

They are highly intelligent mammals and this is reflected in the way they hunt. First, they stun the shark by ramming it, then turn it upside down to disorient it, causing it to enter a trance-like state known as tonic immobility. Sharks essentially stop moving in this posture, allowing the orcas to drown the animal at the surface. The orcas then selectively cut open the shark to extract its liver and, in some cases, other internal organs.

Sharks keep clear of orcas

Researchers have also discovered that dozens of great white sharks have been actively avoiding parts of the Gansbaai coast, a white shark aggregation site in the Western Cape in South Africa, when the orcas are around.

By combining long-term sightings and tagging data, they found that tagged sharks sometimes disappeared for weeks or months at a time, abandoning territory that, historically, has been dominated by these animals.

I always refer to the orcas as being like the wolves of the ocean. They've kind of got the edge on this because, you know, they're coordinated and they've got teamwork, whereas the white sharks are on their own. They're caught by surprise and they're basically just panicking.

Alison Towner, shark biologist

Ecology (journal)

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