Killer whales, super-predators, are known to prey on other shark species, but evidence of attacks on great white sharks was limited. “This behavior has never been observed precisely before, and certainly not from the air,” said the study’s lead author, Alison Towner, a shark specialist at the Marine Dynamics Academy near Cape Town, in a statement released Tuesday. October 2022.
Published in the scientific journal Ecology, the report does not provide an answer to the reasons for this behavior, observed by scientists. One of the killer whales had already attacked white sharks, which was not the case for the other four specimens. According to the authors, this suggests that the practice is spreading, with previous studies having established that black and white animals can learn from each other through “cultural transmission”.
The sharks disappeared from the area after the attack, and only one great white shark was sighted within 45 days, according to the report. Scientists believe this confirms an escape response in sharks. In previously observed cases, they end up abandoning former key habitats, with consequences for the ecosystem and shark-related tourism, according to marine biologist Alison Kock, of South Africa’s National Parks.