Though the good white is taken into consideration the top maritime predator, orcas may actually ascendancy the oceans, new observations suggest.

You are watching: Can a killer whale kill a shark


Biologists in south Africa inspection the stays of great white sharks eliminated by orcas, a actions rarely witnessed firsthand.

When Alisa Schulman-Janiger heard great white shark carcasses had actually washed increase on southern African beaches without your livers a few years ago, she was shocked.

“I was thinking, Déjà vu, below we go again,” claims the biologist, a study associate at the Natural background Museum the Los Angeles County.

In October 1997, tourists in a whale-watching boat off the Farallon Islands, close to San Francisco, witnessed 2 killer whales strike a an excellent white shark and also consume the liver.

It was, at the time, the first documented sighting the killer whales eat white sharks. The incident sparked brand-new lines the research, as well as some intriguing inquiries for Schulman-Janiger and also many others: just how could any kind of ocean predator, even one called a killer whale, dominate the almighty an excellent white?

“From that moment on, whatever seemed to be various as far as perspective about orcas and also white sharks,” Scot Anderson, a seasonal researcher because that Monterey just Aquarium, says in the Whale that Ate Jaws: Eyewitness Report, i m sorry airs July 16 at 10 p.m. ET as part of National geographic Channel’s SharkFest.

“It fully changed everybody"s ideas.” (Read why great whites are still a secret to us.)

As it turns out, it no a fluke. In 2017, 5 white sharks were discovered beached on south Africa’s western Cape. Though no one witnessed the south African killer whales—also known as orcas—kill the sharks, the parallels to the other strikes made orcas the most likely culprits.

Overall, the incidents present that interactions between these two predators deserve to have major impacts ~ above the food chain, states Anderson. For instance, his current study reflects that the existence of orcas scares sharks far from elephant seal nests in the Farallon Islands, which consequently benefits seals, the good white’s key prey.

Following the 1997 attack, the entire good white population—about a hundreds animals—left the islands prematurely and also skipped their yearly seal smorgasbord, Anderson says.

Between 2006 and also 2013, the team tagged 165 white sharks through acoustic tags, and also confirmed your hypothesis: The year that good whites crossed paths with orcas, lock ate under seals.

Tasty livers

Alison Kock, a maritime biologist at the Cape study Centre in Cape Town, south Africa, had already been examining two orcas the were attacking and eating livers that broadnose sevengill sharks, a types that resides in the kelp forests of False Bay.

See more: What Can You Bring Food On Carry On A Plane? (Tsa Food Rules)

They were called Port and Starboard, due to the fact that their dorsal fins flopped over—one to the left and one come the right.