- Stunning drone footage shows a killer whale carrying a great white shark in its mouth as the blood pools.
- A study published last month suggested killer whales had driven great whites from South African waters.
- The video supports the theory, which could have major implications for the marine ecosystem.
Stunning drone footage taken earlier this year off the coast of South Africa shows three killer whales in the middle of killing a great white shark – supporting a theory that the shark has been driven out of its typical habitats.
The footage, which was shot for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week and is set to air Thursday, was published by The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
The video begins by showing two killer whales swimming close to the surface in the bright blue-green waters of South Africa’s Mossel Bay, which is famous for its great whites.
Suddenly, a third killer whale rises from the depths, with a 9-foot great white shark in its mouth. When the killer whale reaches the surface, blood collects around the dead shark. The orca carrying the shark dives back below the surface.
Alison Towner, a scientist in South Africa who studies great whites, told The Daily Beast that it was “the world’s first drone footage of killer whales preying on a great white shark.” She added that it is the first “direct evidence” of the phenomenon to be documented in South Africa.
“It’s probably one of the most beautiful pieces of natural history ever filmed,” she said.
Great white sharks are considered apex predators, meaning they have no known predators; However, scientists have identified rare instances of them being eaten by killer whales.
A study published by the African Journal of Marine Science in June, for which Towner was an author, suggested that great white sharks had fled a common gathering place in South Africa because of the presence of killer whales.
The researchers noticed that carcasses of dead great whites had washed ashore with their livers ripped out and, for some, without their hearts. The wounds on the sharks suggested they had been inflicted by the same orcas, according to the study.
In the newly released drone footage, the orca is holding the shark close to where the liver is.
The authors believed the attacks had led to the migration of great whites out of the area.
“What we seem to be witnessing is a large-scale avoidance strategy, mirroring what we see used by wild dogs in the Serengeti in Tanzania, in response to increased lion presence,” Towner said at the time.
The study authors said the decline in great whites in the area may have contributed to the rise of another predator, the bronze whaler shark, although they noted that species was also hunted by the killer whales.
“Predator-prey interactions between white sharks, other coastal sharks and killer whales are increasing in South Africa and are expected to have pronounced impacts on the ecosystem,” the study said.
The drone footage is expected to air Thursday during the special “Shark House” on Discovery and Discovery+.