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Orca makes first-known solo attack on a great white shark

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Orca makes first-known solo attack on a great white shark

For the first time ever, a lone orca has been observed killing and eating a great white shark. Although orcas were already known to hunt great whites in packs or pairs, one had never been seen going solo before. The finding suggests the emergence of a new hunting strategy.

In 2022 we heard how just two male orcas – named Port and Starboard – had been found responsible for fatal attacks on multiple great whites over a five-and-a-half-year period in South Africa’s Gansbaai coast region.

Scientists from the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) identified Port and Starboard as the culprits based on distinctive bite wounds on eight great white carcasses which had washed up on the shore. On seven of those bodies, the orcas had eaten the shark’s highly nutritious liver.

Needless to say, many other sharks – whose carcasses were never found – may also have fallen victim to the orcas over the years.

Later in 2022, the researchers released a video in which five orcas were seen working together to hunt down several great whites over an hour-long period. Although Starboard was one of the five orcas, the other four hadn’t previously been known to prey on the sharks. According to the scientists, this fact indicated that the predation behavior may have been spreading within the local orca community.

Now, Starboard is back in the spotlight again.

This time, in photos and videos shot by scientists and tourists on two vessels, he’s been captured hunting and killing a juvenile great white (about 2.5 m/8 ft in length) and then eating its liver. Although Port was spotted in the general area, Starboard acted alone, and went from stalking to eating in less than two minutes.

A selection of images captured during the solo attack – Starboard is so-named because his dorsal fin droops to the right

Christiaan Stopforth, Drone Fanatics SA

The orca was seen carrying the liver in his mouth as he swam past one of the boats. It is believed that he killed another great white shortly before or after, as its eviscerated 3.55-m (11.6-ft) carcass washed up on the shore the following day. The incident took place near the town of Mossel Bay, where the orca-pack attack occurred previously.

“This sighting revealed evidence of solitary hunting by at least one killer whale, challenging conventional cooperative hunting behaviors known in the region,” said lead scientist Dr. Alison Towner, who is affiliated with both DICT and South Africa’s Rhodes University. “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.”

A paper on the research was recently published in the African Journal of Marine Science. You can see some of the video footage below.

Killer Whale vs White Shark: New Study Reveals Astonishing Predation Tactics

Source: Taylor & Francis

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