Grisly footage shows pod of orcas killing a great white shark and devouring its liver

When it happens6:30Footage shows Orcas slaying a great white shark and devouring its liver

The great white shark can no longer claim the title of top predator – at least not off the coast of South Africa.

New drone and helicopter footage shows a swarm of Orcas ruthlessly pursuing a great white shark in Mossel Bay before rushing in to kill. The creepy video culminates with one of the killer whales gobbling up a large chunk of the shark’s liver.

Scientists have long suspected that killer whales hunted sharks off the coast of South Africa and drove them out of their natural habitat. They now have “irrefutable evidence,” says shark biologist Alison Towner.

“Of course, when I see the footage, it just confirms everything,” said Towner, a doctoral candidate at South Africa’s Rhodes University. When it happens presenter Nil Köksal.

“And as haunting as it is to see that behavior, one can’t help but marvel at it. It’s truly a novel piece of natural history to observe.”

Towner is a co-author of a new paper analyzing the footage, published this week in the journal Ecology.

VIEW | Killer whale takes down a great white shark:

Towner says there has been ample evidence of orcas hunting great whites off the coast of South Africa since 2017.

“We have carcasses that have been washed away, ripped apart, lacking livers. We’ve seen Orcas in the area, [followed by] the disappearance of the great white,” she said.

The new footage not only provided her with the smoking evidence she was looking for, but also allowed scientists to observe exactly how the hunt went.

The video – which combines helicopter and drone footage of the same hunt on May 16 – shows five orcs working together to kill a shark.

When an orca stalks prey, instead of running away, the shark swims in tight circles, mimicking an invasive technique used by turtles and seals when trying to escape large white fish.

It’s a move that sometimes works against sharks’ prey – but it doesn’t help the massive white fish escape predators. That’s because orcas, unlike great whites, hunt in packs.

“I have always considered Orcas like the wolves of the ocean,” says Towner. “They have an advantage on this because, you know, they work together and they have teamwork, while great whites are their own. They get caught by surprise and they basically just rush, panic.”

A woman kneels next to the carcass of a great white shark on a decaying, withered beach.
Alison Towner, a shark biologist, studied a stranded great white shark that washed up on the coast of South Africa. She has long suspected the orcs were behind these shark killings, and now she has video evidence. (Hennie Otto / Dyr Island Conservation Foundation / Marine Dynamics)

It is not easy to frighten a great white shark. But there’s a reason orcas are called killer whales – even though they’re, in fact, dolphins.

“What do people usually associate Orca with? We all think about Free Willy, the right? Or Sea World? And we think it’s cute and cuddly, and obviously very manipulative,” said Towner.

But orcas, like the great whites, are considered the apex predators of the ocean.

“They’re prolific hunters. They’re extremely efficient. They’re pretty savage actually, because they’re so good at what they do,” she said.

“White sharks have this extreme predatory role and they’re pretty scared. But now they’ve definitely been knocked off the top pedestal here.”

The head of a great white shark protrudes above the water, its toothy mouth wide open.
A great white shark swims in Shark Alley near Dyer Island in Gansbaai, South Africa. Deadly sea creatures, apparently no longer the top predators in this part of the ocean. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Josh D. McInnes, a marine mammal researcher at the University of British Columbia, who has studied Orcas hunt large mammalssays there are a number of possible reasons why Orcas are targeting sharks.

“Killer whales can kill great white sharks based on competition for resources, perceived danger to young calves in the shell or for food,” he told CBC in an email. in an email.

“The shark’s liver is rich in nutrients and oils, and makes up a large proportion of the shark’s anatomical structure. It would make sense for killer whales to eat this organ.”

Jenny L. Atkinson, executive director of the Whale Museum in Washington, says that while the footage is novel, the behavior may not be.

There have been reports of orcas killing large whites in California since the late 90s. And a study in 2109 found that When the orcas appeared in the shark-infested waters, the great whites fled.

“With more viewers and more accessible video, we’ll be capturing more behavior that seems new or unique to us – but it may not be new to them,” Atkinson said in an email. ” Atkinson said in an email.

Chasing sharks

Towner says the film hunt is part of a broader pattern. In fact, she and her colleagues suspect that three other sharks were killed by the same Orca that day.

And they believe it all started with two orcs called Port and Starboard – the latter of which appear in the video devouring shark livers.

Two killer whales swim side by side through the water.
Port and Starboard are two orcas suspected of hunting great white sharks off the coast of South Africa. (Alison Knock / South African National Park)

The deadly duo, Towner said, appeared to be passing on their shark hunting techniques to other Orcas. And the sharks are responding, she said, by dodging.

After the video was shot, no large white people were seen in the area for 45 days. They started reappearing in the summer, but then another great white shark was washed ashore.

“Since then, no great white sharks have returned to Mossel Bay,” she said.

Towner says she worries what this will ultimately mean for the future of South Africa’s great white shark populations and what their loss will mean for the ecosystem at large.

The coast of South Africa is a natural feeding ground for sharks, she said. And it is not clear where the fleeing sharks have taken refuge.

“How many more times can it happen before the entire population is displaced?” she speaks. “It’s really hard to predict what will happen.”


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