Many people believe that the great white shark is one of the most dangerous predators in the world. While the mere mention of the fearsome creature is enough to scare some individuals, it seems that even apex predators are not safe. The species is threatened by what may seem to be an unlikely rival: orcas. A recent study claims that sharks are so afraid of orcas that they immediately vacate the premises when they believe that they are approaching.
A team of researchers observed 17 sharks as they traveled near the coast of California. The researchers used baits to catch the sharks and fitted them with GPS units, which facilitated the tracking process. The results were quite surprising. When killer whales were spotted, the sharks left the area at high speed, even if the whales took a small pause and continued to travel after a short period. Scared sharks would avoid the same area for the entire season.
Orcas are threatening white sharks population
It is believed that an incident which took place more than two decades ago could be tied to the unusual reactions of the sharks. In 1997 several dead sharks could be spotted on the coast of San Francisco. The specific wound patterns suggested that they were attacked by killer whales, which sought to consume their livers. Shark livers are rich in oil and nutrients, which makes them an attractive meal for some killer whales.
A similar incident was recorded in 2017 when five dead, great white sharks were discovered on an African beach, and the only thing that was missing was their livers. Some researchers believe that the culprit was a group of nearby whales, and the bite marks present on the bodies of the sharks reinforce this theory.
When the killer whale attacks a shark, it will bite near the pectoral fins. The whales will use their massive force to squeeze the shark, forcing the liver to come out through the wounds. The results were published in a scientific journal.