A lone killer whale spotted attacking a great white shark in the waters near the coast of South Africa.

Estimated read time 3 min read

It is a smash and grab that has stunned scientists: in less than two minutes, a killer whale attacked and consumed a great white shark before swimming off with the victim’s liver in its mouth.

According to specialists, the incident near Mossel Bay in South Africa provides fresh perspectives on the hunting habits of killer whales.

Although orcas have been observed hunting sharks, dolphins, and even other whales on their own, the recently reported incident is believed to be the first recorded instance of a lone orca preying on the largest predatory fish in the world.

According to Dr. Alison Towner from Rhodes University, killer whales (also known as orcas) typically cooperate when hunting, but they are also capable of hunting alone. While leading a research project, she made a surprising observation of Starboard, a killer whale, hunting a white shark by itself and in a surprisingly short amount of time.

The happenings that took place on June 18, 2023, are recorded in the African Journal of Marine Science. It is a series that could easily fit into a Spielberg film.

The team report how a boat was launched shortly after 2pm in response to sightings of Starboard and another killer whale known as Port. As the vessel crossed the water to follow the pair, the researchers describe how a smell of shark liver and the sight of diving kelp gulls indicated a recent kill.

The following attack happened quickly: at 3:02pm, a young great white shark emerged at the water’s surface. Soon after, Starboard also appeared.

According to the report, the whale seized the shark’s left pectoral fin and repeatedly thrust forward until the shark was eviscerated. A few minutes later, the whale was spotted with a bloody piece of peach-colored liver in its mouth.

Researchers and tourists on a separate vessel, who were also participating in shark cage diving, also documented the attack.

According to the team of researchers, all previously documented incidents of orcas hunting sharks in the area have involved two to six orcas and have lasted approximately two hours.

Although Starboard successfully killed a young great white shark, it was estimated to be around 2.5 meters in length and 100 kilograms in weight. The team believes that in order to take down larger prey, Starboard may need to work together with others. This is because adult great white sharks can reach up to 6.5 meters in length and weigh 2.5 tonnes.

In previous studies, the team discovered that Port and Starboard, named after the direction their dorsal fins bend, have been working together to hunt prey in the waters off the coast of South Africa in recent times.

The duo seem to have a preference for high-energy shark livers, even though scientists admit they are unsure of how orcas access these organs from larger sharks for food.

There is worry that the actions being taken could lead to the displacement of different types of sharks, specifically great white sharks, from coastal areas.

Dr. Primo Micarelli, a co-author of the recent research conducted by the Shark Studies Centre and Siena University, personally witnessed the event of Starboard attacking a great white shark and carrying its liver past the vessel he was on. This experience was unforgettable to him. However, he also expressed his growing worry about the balance of coastal marine ecology, despite his admiration for these predators.

Source: theguardian.com

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