If orca whales make you think of shamu or Free Willy, then you’re in for a shock.
Slater Moore, a photographer with California’s Monterey Bay Whale Watch, recently captured drone video of several orcas taking turns eating a live shark.
On December 13, Moore set out with a group of hopeful whale watchers when they received a call from a fishing boat about several orcas nearby. Once Moore and company arrived at the site, he prepared his drone to photograph orcas just as he had so many times before. But this time quickly proved to be far outside the norm.
“I was actually about to bring my drone in when we saw a bubble blast, a bunch of bubbles coming up to the surface,” Moore told The Washington Post. “The next thing you know a killer whale comes up with a shark in its mouth.”
Moore then proceeded to capture several minutes of the rare sight of a half-dozen orcas, including a few young calves, eating a sevengill shark. “They kind of take turns,” Moore said. “One grabs the shark. The other ones peel off and circle around.”
With footage like this, it’s hardly surprising that the video has been viewed nearly half a million times on Moore’s Facebook page alone. Yet even that number hardly suggests just how incredible this footage is.
For decades, scientists didn’t even have direct evidence that orcas fed on sharks at all. Instead, the evidence largely came from orcas that washed ashore and whose teeth were ground down presumably by the tough skin of the sharks they’d eaten.
Now, however, Moore’s video provides not only clear documentation of this feeding behavior, but also reveals some of its nuances, including the way that the adult orcas pass the shark back and forth in order to demonstrate this behavior for the calves, as well as the fact that they hold the shark upside down in order to trigger a chemical reaction in the animal that renders it immobile.
Now researchers hope that drone footage like Moore’s will continue to reveal more about the nuances of marine life that have, to this point, gone largely undocumented.
For more on the battles between orcas and shark facts (great whites, in this case), have a look at this National Geographic documentary:
Next, read about these weird pets, see video of the tiger shark feeding frenzy that obliterated a whale earlier this year. Then, have a look at the mysterious sea creature that confounded scientists after washing ashore in Mexico in March.