Killer Whales Have Started To Hunt Great White Sharks

Killer Whale

There is an intense battle raging under water off the coast of South Africa as killer whales hunt and kill one of the world’s most iconic apex predators, the great white shark. The killings began in May last year when scientists spotted a couple of killer whales cruising off South Africa’s South-Western coast. A few days later bodies of great white sharks began washing up ashore. Shark biologists say that from a scientific perspective the trend is completely without precedent.

Missing livers

Five great whites washed up on shore ranging in size from between 9 to 16 feet. Each shark had a large tear below one of their pectoral fins and what was most interesting is that all sharks were missing their entire livers. Their livers had been removed with almost surgical precisions and the scientists that examined the bodies say the injuries clearly indicate orca predation. Researchers say they have never ever seen predation from killer whales before.

So how exactly does an orca hunt a great white?

The primary theory is the killer whales cease all communications and then sneaks up behind the shark and stuns it by slapping it using its massive tail. The shark is then flipped on to its back which causes it to become momentarily paralysed. The shark is then pushed through the water until it suffocates. The orca completes its kill by tearing a hole in the shark and removing its liver which is the shark’s largest and most nutrient rich organ.

A large number of sharks have probably been killed

So far only a number of sharks have washed up on beaches but most researchers believe that it is probable that many more were killed and their bodies sank to the sea bed. The sharks that did wash up on beaches were probably swimming close to shore when they were attacked and the tide helped to push their carcasses up on to the beach.

Killer whales learned how to hunt great whites

Killer whales are extremely specialised hunters, and usually feed on seals, some whales and sharks. It is very rare for them to target great whites. Experts believe the pair that was spotted in South Africa probably began hunting smaller sharks and then migrated towards hunting the great white. Now that they have learned how to hunt the great white, the trend will probably not stop any time soon.

Orcas have one big advantage over the great white

Both great whites and killer whales are considered to be apex predators which means there are no other marine animals that hunt them. Both species are fast and have the ability to swim at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. Orcas are slightly longer and twice as heavy. There have only been two cases of killer whales attacking great whites in the past. Once of the coast of California and the other in Australia. No cases of great whites hunting killer whales have ever been recorded. The big advantage that killer whales have over great whites is that they hunt in teams, unlike any other marine creature.

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Leave a Reply