HARTENBOS, Mossel Bay — The great white shark is often thought of as one of the scariest apex predators on the planet, but a new video shows that they may no longer be at the top of the food chain.
The Ecological Society of America has captured footage of a group of orcas, also known as killer whales, circling an unfortunate great white near Hartenbos Beach, South Africa before killing and eating it.
Great whites have reportedly been disappearing from South Africa's coast recently, and the Ecological Society believes that this predation may be a factor.
“This behavior has never been witnessed in detail before, and certainly never from the air,” said lead author Alison Towner, a senior shark scientist at Marine Dynamics Academy in Gansbaai, South Africa.
The society also believes that if orcas truly are beginning to prey on sharks, it could have a drastic impact on both tourism and the ecosystem.
Warning: The following video is graphic and may be disturbing to some
Two orcas have been linked to hunting great white sharks in South Africa before, but the practice has never been captured on camera before now. An orca named Starboard is well known in the area, and is believed to be connected to several shark carcasses washing up on the South Africa beach.
Orcas are very intelligent and social animals, and researchers believe that shark hunting may be spreading among the population.
Researchers are also studying how sharks are reacting to the new threat.
“The sharks ultimately abandoned former key habitats, which has had significant knock-on effects for both the ecosystem and shark-related tourism,” said South African National Parks’ shark expert and marine biologist, Dr. Alison Kock.
According to the researchers, the killing caused all but one great white shark to flee the area around the attack. They claim that the killer whales are even causing sharks to turn to some of the same tactics that seals and turtles use to escape predators.
If killer whales really are beginning to prey on great whites, perhaps there is a new king of the ocean.