Lone Orca Is Seen Attacking and Eating a Great White Shark for the First Time Ever

Lone orca in the sea

Photo: AndreAnita/Depositphotos (Not a photo of the actual orca)

For the first time ever, scientists have observed a lone orca killing a great white shark. The attack, which took place off the coast of Mossel Bay in South Africa, may point to an ecological shift—one that could even be sparked by human activity.

Killer whales are known to attack animals such as dolphins and seals on their own. However, they usually hunt in groups when it comes to bigger prey, such as a great white shark, considered the the world’s largest predatory fish.

The attack took place took place on June 18, 2023. After getting reports that two orcas, named Starboard and Port, had been seen earlier, researchers and tourists got on two vessels to observe them. Upon arrival, scientists noted the water’s surface seemed to be slick with shark liver, a sign that a one of these creatures had already been killed.

After an hour, the researchers saw a juvenile white shark appear near the surface. Those on board then witnessed Starboard grip the left pectoral fin of the shark. The event was reported on the African Journal of Marine Science, where scientists report that the orca “thrust forward with the shark several times before eventually eviscerating it” in less than two minutes. Port, the other killer whale, was over 300 feet away and didn't get involved.

The orca was then photographed from one of the vessels with a “bloody piece of peach-colored liver in its mouth.” Shark livers are rich with nutrients, and are so big they can take up one third of the shark's body mass. It remains unclear how killer whales open up the sharks and get at their livers, but they've been observed to discard the rest of their carcasses.

It is believed that these two orcas first started targeting great whites in 2015, scaring off great white shark populations. But researchers don't know yet where they've been relocating to, raising concerns they might end up overlapping with heavy commercial fisheries. The study also points out that Starboard's hunting skills may be a response to the stress of spending time hunting close to shorelines in areas teeming with people.

“While we don’t have solid evidence on the specific drivers, the arrival of the killer whale pair could be linked to broader changes in the ecosystem,” lead author Alison Towner, a doctoral researcher at Rhodes University, told CNN. “It’s clear that human activities, such as climate change and industrial fishing, are stressing our oceans. To fully grasp these dynamics, additional research and funding are essential. There are still plenty of unanswered questions about these shark-hunting killer whales and where they came from.”

For the first time ever, scientists have observed a lone orca killing a great white shark. The attack, which took place off the coast of Mossel Bay in South Africa, may point to an ecological shift.

The pair of transient killer whales travel through the waters of Avacha Bay, Kamchatka

Photo: bborriss.67/Depositphotos

h/t: [The Guardian]

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Regina Sienra

Regina Sienra is a Staff Writer at My Modern Met. Based in Mexico City, Mexico, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications with specialization in Journalism from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has 10+ years’ experience in Digital Media, writing for outlets in both English and Spanish. Her love for the creative arts—especially music and film—drives her forward every day.
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