HomeTop StoriesSolo killer whale eats great white

Solo killer whale eats great white

A lone killer whale or killer whale has been filmed chasing and killing a great white shark in an ‘amazing’ attack.

Scientists said it was “unprecedented” and showed the exceptional predatory skills of orcas.

Two killer whales in particular off the coast of South Africa have been observed working together to hunt and kill sharks, including great white sharks.

“But this caught us off guard,” says shark biologist Dr. Alison Towner.

Dr. Towner, who works at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, has studied the animals for years. She and her colleagues published a detailed and eerie account of their new observations in the African Journal of Marine Science.

The attack – filmed in 2023, which you can watch here – was described as ‘solo and rapid’ by scientists. The male orca killed the shark and ate its liver – all in less than two minutes.

Aerial images of killer whales working together to hunt great whites off the coast of South Africa

In 2022, scientists took aerial photographs of orcas hunting together for great whites

Scientists captured drone footage for the first time in 2022 of two male orcas working together to hunt great white sharks.

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The scientists then reported that the animals, nicknamed port and starboard because their dorsal fins are curved in opposite directions, showed “a predilection for extracting and consuming the shark’s livers.”

During the attacks, the sharks circled tightly around the orcas in a desperate attempt to avoid predation,” Dr. Towner recalls.

In this newly reported attack, Starboard hunted alone. Scientists described how the killer whale grabbed the left pectoral fin of an 8-foot-long juvenile shark and “pushed it forward several times before finally eviscerating it.”

Marine mammal scientist Dr. Luke Rendell from the University of St Andrews said it was “a really wonderful observation” of the behaviour.

“It’s interesting that it’s just one animal,” he told BBC News, and how much skill it demonstrates in tackling the shark: ramming it in the side and grabbing the pectoral fin to keep away from those big, nasty jaws.

‘A great white shark has a nice, big concentration of food, so it’s perhaps not surprising that some populations [of orcas]Where these sharks occur in sufficient numbers, we have learned to exploit them.”

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A great white shark is hunted by an orcaA great white shark is hunted by an orca

The lone orca (pictured right) ‘eviscerated’ the shark in less than two minutes

It raises questions about the potential impact of orca behavior on the areas’ shark populations.

The scientists don’t know what drives this behavior, but Dr. Towner told BBC News that it was becoming clear that “human activities, such as climate change and industrial fishing, are putting significant pressure on our oceans”.

And there may be health consequences for killer whales that hunt sharks, including the ingestion of toxins and metals from shark meat.

“Disruptions in the balance between top predators can also affect other species,” explains Dr. Towner. “Endangered African penguins may face increased predation by Cape fur seals [if the fur seals are not being eaten by] white sharks.”

Dr. Rendell pointed out that there was no way to know if the behavior was new or simply observed for the first time. “But what really stands out is how skilled these animals are as hunters.”

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Dr. Towner added that any discovery in these interactions [between orcas and sharks] was ‘fascinating’.

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