Watch the infamous killer whale devour a great white shark in less than 2 minutes

In one of the most extraordinary predation events ever recorded, a killer whale has been observed destroying a great white shark in less than two minutes. Previously, orcas have been seen hunting the large sharks in groups, but this is the first known example of a single orca taking down a great white shark without help from other hunting partners.

“The astonishing predation, off the coast of Mossel Bay, South Africa, represents unprecedented behavior that highlights the orca’s exceptional skill,” Dr. Alison Towner of Rhodes University said in a statement. Towner and colleagues describe the event in a new study, explaining that the act was carried out by a male orca named Starboard, who first appeared in the region in 2015 and had been part of a white shark-killing team for several years .

Since 2017, Starboard and its hunting partner Port (so named because their dorsal fins are curved in opposite directions) have been repeatedly observed preying on sharks together. During these attacks, the pair work together – sometimes with up to four additional orcas – to surround and capture great white sharks before extracting and consuming their fatty livers.

According to the study authors, these hunts often last up to two hours and have led to many shark species avoiding the area around Mossel Bay – a region previously famous for its large population of great white sharks.

Starboard’s solo attack was observed on June 18, 2023 at 3:00 PM local time, when a young white shark about 2.5 meters long appeared on the surface with the killer whale hot on its heels. “[Starboard] then grabbed the shark’s left pectoral fin and thrust the shark forward several times before finally eviscerating it,” the study authors write.

“Remarkably, the period from grabbing the shark by the pectoral fin to evisceration took less than two minutes,” they continue, adding that Starboard was spotted shortly afterwards with “a bloody piece of peach-colored liver in [his] mouth.” Interestingly enough, the researchers say that Port remained about 100 meters (328 feet) away throughout the entire incident, leaving Starboard to hunt and devour the shark alone.

“These are groundbreaking insights into the predatory behavior of this species, and our findings significantly contribute to the global understanding of killer whale predation dynamics, advancing knowledge of marine ecosystems and predator-prey relationships,” says Towner.

In this case, the young shark likely weighed about 100 kilograms (220 pounds), although the researchers suspect that a fully grown great white shark – which can grow to 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in length and 2.5 tons (2.76 tons) can weigh – may be too big for a single orca, and therefore ‘cooperative hunting’ would be necessary.

Starboard killer whale hunts great white shark

A timeline of Starboard’s attack on the shark.

Image credits: Christiaan Stopforth, Drone Fanatics SA / Arianna Di Bari, Shark Studies Center Scientific Institute

The next day, investigators reported “the distinct odor of shark liver” in the air and a suspicious oily stain on the ocean’s surface, all of which indicated another murder. Sure enough, the carcass of a second shark, also missing its liver, was found washed up on shore nearby, although it is unclear whether this was the victim of a single orca or a group of hunters.

“The study raises critical questions about the impact of killer whale predation on South Africa’s shark populations,” says Towner. At this time, researchers are unsure why orcas have shown such a taste for shark liver in recent years, although Towner warns that “the movement of several shark species due to the presence of orcas could impact the release of mesopredators and possible trophic changes.” in the marine ecosystem.”

The study was published in the African Journal of Marine Science.

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