September 19, 2020 | 4:03pm
It turns out that great white sharks aren’t always the hunter — the feared killers of the ocean are prey for orcas.
Autopsies have been done on six bodies of the monster predators which washed up on the coast of South Africa over the years and the results show the sharks were attacked by killer whales for their nutrient rich organs.
Marine biologist Alison Towner helped perform post-mortems on six sharks that washed up on the shores of Gansbaai, and, in an appearance on the YouTube channel Shark Talk, hosted by Gemma Care, said orca pods had “physically ripped open” the sharks’ skins just below the throat in a “precise and refined” way in order for the organs to slip out. This story was first reported by Newsweek.
There have been reports of killer whales attacking several species of sharks off the South African coast since 2017 and the deaths were eventually linked to two killer whales in the area.
Towner said the autopsies on the great whites took hours to perform, with the team meticulously taking measurements from each part of the shark. “Then in we go to establish if there are any signs of trauma that meant you could discount orca predation,” she told Care. “Any boat injuries, fishing lines…trauma that could’ve been the cause of death. When the animal is lying there with its 60 kilo liver ripped out, it’s pretty obvious.”
The attacks on the great white sharks were identical to similar attacks on seven gill sharks in the area, and Towner added: “Just under the surface of the skin is the perfect place to open up the shark and access and extract the liver,” Towner said. “I think two of the animals had both the heart removed and one male had his testes removed. Because they’re very close there in the body cavity.
“We think the two killer whales were learning to get hold of the pectoral fins. We don’t know for sure. It’s like a ripping motion. The liver… it’s oily, very slippery, it would naturally slide out so they could come along and share it.”