The ocean is fucked. If it’s not stingrays it’s jellyfish. If it’s not eels slidin’ up inside ya it’s sea lice chewing on your ankles. If it’s not Jaws it’s Free Willy. And now, it seems, the ocean’s two biggest apex predators are duking it out for the title of gnarliest sea-dweller.
Earlier this year, scientists at shark diving company Marine Dynamics noticed a pair of killer whales cruising through the water off the southwestern coast of South Africa. They noticed, because killer whales aren’t known for frequenting the waters off the southwestern coast of South Africa. This is more typically the domain of the great white shark, after all.
Within a matter of days, five great white shark carcasses had washed up on nearby beaches.
The dead specimens ranged from two-and-a-half to almost five metres in length. Each had a large tear below one of its pectoral fins, and each was missing its entire liver. The organs had been removed with surgical precision, according to the scientists performing the autopsies – a clear sign of orca predation.
“From a scientific perspective in South Africa, it’s absolutely unprecedented,” said Alison Towner, shark biologist at the Dyer Island Conservation Trust in Gansbaai, SA. “I’ve seen some incredible things working with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, but one thing I never ever expected to see was predation pressure from killer whales. We had never even seen an orca here prior to 2011.”
Killer whales aren’t usually out for great white shark blood, either. Their diet typically covers seals, some whales and smaller sharks. But Towner suspects the orcas might have honed their craft slaughtering smaller breeds before moving up to the harder stuff.
“Now they have learned how to kill white sharks, that’s probably not going to stop anytime soon.”
Nobody seems to actually know how the whales are slaying these notorious toppers of the food chain, but one quite detailed theory runs as follows:
The orca sneaks up on the shark and gives it a slap with its big ol’ tail, stunning it. Said orca then flips said shark onto its back, paralysing it in a hypnotic state known as ‘tonic immobility’ (which is what happens when a shark gets turned upside-down, you’re welcome). Orca proceeds to push shark through the water until shark suffocates, and orca promptly removes the liver, the largest organ, for a nutrient-rich meal.
That is, hands down, the most fucked up evil method of murder that exists in the animal kingdom. It is the deep sea equivalent of creeping up on someone, jabbing them with morphine, laying them on their back until they swallow their tongue and taking their kidneys to sell on the black market. Pure devilry.
It also makes for a very convincing answer to this classic ‘who would win’ scenario. While the two species are actually pretty comparable in terms of size and speed, what really gives the orca a leg-up, apparently, is its ability to hunt in a pack and hone its methods from experience.
Teamwork and learning, in other words. Something to keep in mind next time you’re out there in the water. Also: never go in the water.
Source: Fox News
Feature image: Shark Tours Hawaii
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