Science

VIDEO. Killer whales filmed hunting for great white whales

Killer whales are terrible predators: they are able to kill white sharks without much harm. If researchers are aware of this bloody interaction, it is because, increasingly, the inert bodies of sharks are washed up on beaches. A video posted on October 3, 2022 to YouTube and filmed on May 16 now offers a live and detailed view of killer whales attacking great white sharks, filmed by helicopter and drone off Mossel Bay, South Africa. ).

Detailed observation from the sky

Killer whales have already been seen preying on other shark species. But there was still no direct observation of the predation of big whites, although the clip had already been released in June. This time, the researchers relied on all the collected images. “This behavior has never been seen in detail before and certainly never seen from the air,” said Alison Towner, a researcher at Rhodes University in South Africa and lead author of the study, released alongside the video. journal Ecology.

In South Africa, sharks are kept at bay by two particularly belligerent killer whales: port and starboard. Nauki and Avenir repeated their deadly exploits off the coast of Gansbaai. They then became the subject of a study again signed by Alison Towner and published June 29, 2022 in the African Journal of Marine Science. A new video shows one of these killer whales, Triborda, along with four other specimens during a predation by great white sharks. The presence of other killer whales could mean the behavior is being propagated through the population through learning, the researchers said. If so, sharks in the area could be in danger.

Maneuvering to starboard

This new video also reveals the methods used by the sharks to try and escape. Instead of running away, the latter linger, glancing at the killer whales, and then whirl around in sharp turns when they are very close. Too Close: This strategy is of limited effectiveness against cetaceans that hunt in groups. “Orcas are very intelligent and social animals. Their group hunting methods make them incredibly efficient predators,” says Dr. Simon Elven, co-author of the new study.

And with Starboard, the risk of a shark’s life being cut short increases. What’s more, this killer whale, which gained little notoriety in the scientific community, was filmed apparently eating shark liver. This is not surprising for biologists who are already familiar with this behavior. This organ in the shark is especially rich in lipids, it is a delicacy. The effectiveness of Tribord and his minions raises fears of a real carnage among the sharks, or at least a long run on their part. After that day on May 16, during which two, perhaps three, were killed, the tall whites left the area for at least seven weeks.

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