Great white sharks may be apex predators, but they aren’t immune to being predated on themselves. This was recently demonstrated in a savage video that shows a pair of orcas sucking the liver out of a dying great white. Ouch.
The video was shared by The Daily Beast online and by lead White Shark Biologist for Marine Dynamics Alison Towner on Instagram, and shows drone footage (filmed by Christiaan Stopforth from Fanatics Drone) of the incredible and fatal encounter. In it, two orcas can be seen circling around a great white which is visibly bleeding while a third orca gnaws on its underbelly.
“Here is some of the footage of the recent white shark hunt by Orca,” said Towner. “One of the most incredible pieces of natural history ever captured on film. We are looking forward to sharing the science behind this and the rest of the interaction soon, and trust me there is more!”
The livers of great whites are so delicious to the orcas because they’re what enable these giant fish to remain buoyant in the water. While other fish have swim bladders to do this job for them, sharks rely on their oil-rich organ to keep afloat.
Unfortunately, with great buoyancy comes great nutrient content, and highly intelligent orcas have evidently learned how to suck out the livers of great whites for an extra decadent treat.
As for how they take down the enormous great whites, it seems the orcas monopolize on tonic immobility. This is where, when turned upside down, sharks and rays go into a kind of trance.
Researchers use the quirk of tonic immobility to help them measure and tag potentially dangerous sharks safely, and it seems the orcas have clocked on to it too. They will ram into the sides of their enormous prey, knocking it over at which point they can grab the shark and swim around holding it upside-down.
The take-down has two perks: one, it triggers tonic immobility. Two, it may even drown the sharks, many of whom rely on ram ventilation to breathe.
It’s a tough old world out there, then, even for an animal as impressive as a great white.