A pair of killer whales prey on great white sharks off the coast of South Africa, according to a new study.
The killer whales ripped out the livers and hearts of great white sharks, the study said.
In response to the attacks, the study said the great white sharks are migrating en masse.
A pair of orcas have been terrorizing great white sharks off the coast of South Africa since 2017, causing them to flee en masse, according to a new study.
The study, published in the African Journal of Marine Science, suggests the menacing killer whales drove 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 noted that 14 sharks had been tracked for five and a half years fleeing the area where the orcas are present.
Visual sightings of the great white sharks have also declined, according to the study.
Using tagging data and long-term observations, researchers also noticed great white sharks were washing ashore.
According to the data, eight great white sharks washed ashore between 2017 and 2020. Seven of them had their liver torn out, and some also had their hearts removed, the study said.
According to the study, the wounds were clearly made by the same pair of orcas. The killer whales likely killed more sharks that have yet to wash ashore, the study said.
The attacks triggered the sharks’ “flight” instinct, triggering a massive migration away from the marine predators, according to the study.
Alison Towner, a senior white shark biologist with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, said: “What we seem to be seeing, however, is a large-scale avoidance strategy, mirroring what we’re seeing used by wild dogs in the Serengeti in Tanzania, in response to increased presence of lions.”
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 noted that the decline in great white shark numbers has other effects on the fragile marine ecosystem. It has led to a rise in the area of the bronze whale shark, which the great white shark typically eats, Towner said. However, these sharks are also targeted by killer whales, according to the study.
Insider previously reported the first evidence of a group of killer whales hunting and killing adult blue whales.
Marine scientists from Cetrec WA (cetacean research) were able to describe in detail how orcas swam into the mouths of blue whales to eat their tongues. Investigators saw that large patches of skin and blubber had been carved from the body of a blue whale and most of the dorsal fin had been bitten off, Insider’s Bethany Dawson reported.
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