The carcass of a great white shark that washed ashore on an Australian beach may have been the result of a killer whale attack. Remarkable footage revealed that the massive apex predator's body had been torn in half before it was discovered by local residents in the state of Victoria.
Beachgoers Horrified After Huge Half-Eaten Great White Shark Washes Up On Beach
Ben Johnstone, a fisherman and manager of a bait shop, captured the footage near Cape Bridgewater. He mentioned that, in his 15 years of fishing in the region, he had never before encountered a shark carcass washing up on the shore, as reported by ABC News.
“It’s probably a once in a lifetime experience to see something like that.”
Mr. Johnstone suspects that the severe injuries on the shark were probably caused by a killer whale attack. He mentioned that a group of orcas had been observed circling in the bay just two days before the carcass was found.
Great white sharks and killer whales are both apex predators, occupying the highest positions in their respective food chains. However, they can "come into conflict when they intersect" and vie for the same prey, as noted by the Natural History Museum.
“In these instances, the marine predators will attack each other, and there have been multiple observations of unusual behaviours used by killer whales to attack great whites,” the museum’s website states.
In the 1990s, there was an observation of an orca ramming a great white shark off the California coast.
This action resulted in the great white being turned upside down, possibly as an attempt to disorient it and induce a trance-like state. Subsequently, the orca swam with the shark on the surface for approximately 15 minutes to suffocate it.
During this incident, the killer whale was seen consuming the liver of the shark. The shark's liver is particularly rich in fats and oils, which play a crucial role in helping great whites maintain their buoyancy, as explained by the museum.
As reported by trophic ecologist Lauren Meyer, who is part of an international team developing a database on such interactions, there have been a total of nine documented interactions between orcas and great white sharks in Australia and New Zealand. Similar incidents have also been reported in the United States and South Africa.
Dr. Meyer, affiliated with Flinders University, shared with ABC that while it is not entirely definitive, the prevailing theory suggests that a killer whale likely attacked the shark with the intention of extracting its liver.
“I’m pretty certain it was killer whales they kill sharks just for the livers, it’s the only part of them that they eat.”
“As for what happened to the rest of the body, once the orcas are done, the rest of the intestines, stomach etcetera would’ve fallen out, as there’s nothing there to hold them in.”
“We’re not actually sure why killer whales are such picky eaters,” Dr Meyer said.
“We see this with things like humpback whales, where killer whales come in and actually eat the tongue and leave the rest of the whale.”
“We certainly see that they prefer the liver of white sharks, mako sharks, bronze whalers and sevengills, and even tiger sharks. We also see they like to eat the intestines of sunfish, which is really strange, and dugong intestines.”
Samples from the shark's carcass have been forwarded to government agencies and academic institutions. Dr. Meyer mentioned that researchers will examine rake marks and residual genetic material, like saliva, as part of their ongoing investigation into the incident.
She also noted that she was "not surprised" by the occurrence in Portland. This area is known as "an important corridor" for great white sharks and serves as a hunting ground for orcas, making such interactions between these apex predators a distinct possibility.
As per information from the Natural History Museum, after the observed attacks involving orcas and great white sharks in California and South Africa, it became evident that the entire ecosystems in those regions started to undergo transformations. These changes raised concerns among scientists and researchers.
The orcas, by frightening away the great white sharks for extended periods of weeks or even months, were observed to have a cascading effect on the behavior of other species within the ecosystem. This included changes in the habits of other sharks, abalone, and penguins.
“There is only so much pressure an ecosystem can take, and the impacts of these orca removing sharks are likely far reaching,” marine biologist Alison Towner observed last year.