Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024


Killer Whale's Solo Attack On Great White Shark Stuns Researchers

The scientists are uncertain about the driving factors behind this behaviour.

A lone killer whale was captured on film hunting and killing a great white shark off the coast of South Africa. The extraordinary footage has left scientists in awe, shedding light on the remarkable predatory skills of killer whales. 

Shark biologist Dr Alison Towner, from Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, was surprised at the solitary and swift attack, claiming it “caught us off guard”, according to BBC. The male killer whale executed the attack and ate the shark’s liver in under two minutes. 

Watch here:

Previously, “It took two killer whales to team up to hunt sharks off the South African coast. This solo incident brings a new aspect to our understanding,” Dr Towner said. 

He revealed, “During the attacks, the sharks would tightly circle the killer whales, in a desperate attempt to avoid predation.”

Dr Luke Rendell, a marine mammal scientist from the University of St Andrews, described the recent attack as “a really beautiful observation” of behaviour, highlighting the skill demonstrated by the lone killer whale in tackling the great white shark. 

“A great white shark is a nice, big concentration of food, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that some populations [of killer whales], where these sharks occur in sufficient numbers, have learned to exploit that,” he added.

The scientists are uncertain about the driving factors behind this behaviour but, Dr Towner pointed to the increasing influence of human activities such as climate change and industrial fishing on the oceans. There are also potential health repercussions for killer whales eating sharks, including, the ingestion of toxins and metals from shark flesh. 

Dr Towner talked about the broader ecological implications, noting that disruptions in the balance of apex predators could affect other species. 

“Endangered African penguins could face increased predation by cape fur seals [if the fur seals are not being eaten by] white sharks,” she said. 

Although it is unclear whether this behaviour is observed for the first time, researchers emphasise the significance of every discovery in understanding the interactions between orcas and sharks, describing them as “fascinating.” Dr Towner concluded, “But what stands out is how skillful these animals are as hunters.”


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