Drone footage shows killer whales killing and eating a great white shark | Whales
Scientists have published findings confirming orcas hunt great white sharks, after the marine mammal was caught on camera killing one of the world’s top marine predators.
A pod of killer whales are seen hunting sharks during an hour-long chase off Mossel Bay, a port city in the southern province of the Western Cape, in helicopter and drone footage that informed a scientific study published this week.
Alison Towner, shark scientist at the Marine Dynamics Academy in Gansbaai, South Africa, and lead author of the study, said: “This behavior has never been observed in detail before, and certainly never from the air. .”
A snippet of the footage, taken in May, shows five killer whales chasing and killing a great white and scientists believe three others were mauled to death during the hunt.
Simon Elwen, marine mammal scientist and co-author of the study, said: “Killer whales are very intelligent and social animals. Their group hunting methods make them incredibly efficient predators,” Simon Elwen, marine mammal expert and co-author of the study, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Killer whales, the apex predator of the ocean, are known to prey on other shark species, but evidence of attacks on great whites was previously limited. The study did not examine the reasons for the behavior.
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 previous studies establishing that black and white animals can learn from each other through “cultural transmission”.
The sharks disappeared from the area after the attack, with only one great white shark spotted within 45 days, according to the article published in the scientific journal Ecology. The authors said these confirmed sharks have a flight reaction and could have wider implications.
In previously observed cases, the animals ended up abandoning former key habitats, with consequences for the ecosystem and shark-related tourism, said Alison Kock, marine biologist at South African National Parks.