Killer whales are so agile and intelligent hunters that even great white sharks avoid waters in which the marine mammals are looking for prey: otherwise they will quickly become the killer whales’ food themselves. And even the largest creatures on Earth are not safe when they encounter a pod of hungry orcas, video footage from the Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia shows. In the journal “Marine Mammal Science”, John Totterdell and his team describe a total of three proven successful hunts on blue whales by the black and white relatives.
Totterdell and Co were on a research ship in the waters off Western Australia in 2019 when, in addition to numerous circling seabirds, they also spotted a lot of blood in the water: caused by a school of killer whales that attacked an approximately 20-metre-long blue whale and repeatedly bit flesh from its body , until even bones were exposed. The injuries were so severe that the blue whale bled to death from being hit with its tail despite initial resistance. In the end, around 50 orcas ate the carcass until the remains sank about five hours after the animal died. Before that, a female killer whale even swam into the mouth of its larger relative to eat its tongue.
Almost two weeks later, the team observed the same pod hunting a blue whale again, but this time a slightly smaller calf. And in 2021, a third sighting followed, killing another juvenile blue whale. However, this news does not come as a complete surprise, because it was already known that orcas also hunt the slightly smaller humpback and gray whales.