A pair of killer whales are feeding on great white sharks off the coast of South Africa, according to a new study.
Killer whales tore out the livers and hearts of great white sharks, the study found.
In response to attacks, the study indicates that great white sharks are migrating en masse.
A pair of killer whales have been terrorizing great white sharks off the coast of South Africa since 2017, scaring them away en masse, according to a new study.
The study, published in the African Journal of Marine Science, suggests the threatening killer whales may have scared great white sharks away from their habitat on the coast of Gansbaai in South Africa’s Western Cape.
A team of researchers from Marine Dynamics and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust noticed that in five and a half years, 14 sharks had been tracked fleeing the area in which killer whales are present.
Visual sightings of great white sharks have also declined, according to the study.
Using tagging data and long-term observations, the researchers also noticed that the great white sharks had started washing up on shore.
Eight great white sharks stranded between 2017 and 2020, the data shows. Seven of them had their livers ripped out, with some also having their hearts removed, according to the study.
The injuries are distinctly made by the same pair of killer whales, according to the study. Killer whales likely killed more sharks that have not yet washed ashore, the study found.
The attacks triggered the sharks’ “flight” instinct, causing a mass migration away from marine predators, the study found.
Alison Towner, senior white shark biologist at the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, said: “What we seem to be witnessing is a large-scale avoidance strategy, mirroring what we see used by wild dogs in the Serengeti in Tanzania. , in response to increased lion presence.”
Towner continued, “The research is particularly important because by determining how large marine predators respond to risk, we can understand the dynamics of coexistence with other predator communities.”
Towner observed that dwindling numbers of great white sharks have other effects on the sea’s fragile ecosystem. This triggered an emergence in the area of the bronze whale shark, which the great white shark typically eats, said Towner. These sharks, however, are also targeted by killer whales, according to the study.
Insider previously reported the first evidence of a pod of orcas hunting and killing adult blue whales.
Marine scientists from Cetrec WA (Cetacean Research) were able to detail how killer whales swam into the mouths of blue whales to eat their tongues. Researchers saw large chunks of skin and blubber ripped from a blue whale’s body and most of the dorsal fin bitten off, Insider’s Bethany Dawson reported.
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