Scientists have released new findings confirming that killer whales prey on great white sharks after the marine mammal was caught on camera killing one of the world’s largest marine predators.
Helicopter and drone footage shows a pod of killer whales chasing sharks during an hour-long chase off Mossel Bay, a port town in the Western Cape province. Scientific study it came out this week.
“This behavior has never been witnessed in detail before, and certainly never from the air,” said the lead author Alison Townera shark scientist at the Marine Dynamics Academy in Gansbaai, South Africa.
One clip shows five killer whales chasing and killing a great white, and scientists believe three others were mauled to death during the hunt.
“Orcas are highly intelligent and social animals. Their group hunting methods make them incredibly effective predators,” Simon Elwen, a marine mammal specialist and co-author of the study, said on Tuesday.
Killer whales, the ocean’s top predator, are known to prey on other shark species, but evidence of attacks on great whites has previously been limited.
The study did not look at reasons for the behavior.
Christiaan Stopforth, who filmed the drone footage, posted a video of the deadly interaction on Instagram.
“This was definitely one of the most exciting days of my life, filming these animals and seeing them is a feeling you won’t be able to describe to people,” Stopforth wrote.
One of the whales was known to have attacked white sharks before, but the other four were not.
The authors said this suggests the practice is spreading, with earlier studies showing that black and white animals can learn from each other through “cultural transmission”.
After the attack, the sharks disappeared from the area, and only one great white spot was seen over the next 45 days, according to the article, which was published in the scientific journal Ecology.
The authors said this confirmed that sharks have a flight response and could have wider implications.
“We first observed the flight responses of seven gill and great white sharks to the presence of Port and Right-sided orcas in False Bay in 2015 and 2017. The sharks ended up abandoning former key habitats, which had significant knock-on effects on both ecosystems. and shark tourism,” said a shark expert and marine biologist with the South African National Parks, Dr. Alison Kock.
In previous cases observed, the animals eventually left former key habitats, with consequences for the ecosystem and shark-related tourism, said marine biologist Alison Kock of South African National Parks.
The footage was shot in May and one of the videos was first broadcast in June.