This discovery is based on autopsies performed on six bodies of these great sea predators that have ended up dead on the shores of South Africa over the years.
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- Last Updated: September 23, 2020, 6:47 PM IST
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Sharks are hunted by humans for their organs for many reasons including medicine, cuisine and fins, despite being illegal across many countries. However, according to a recent observation, they have similar hunters in the ocean, too.
Orcas, also known as killer whales, have been reportedly attacking and feasting on organs of great white sharks. This discovery is based on autopsies performed on six bodies of these great sea predators that have ended up dead on the shores of South Africa over the years.
The post-mortem studies of these corpses revealed they were attacked by killer whales. The best guess of scientists is that orcas are aware of the nutrient-rich organs like hearts. Alison Towner was among the group of marine biologists and doctors who helped to read these six shark corpses in Gansbaai.
The marine biologist spoke to Gemma Care on a YouTube channel called “Shark Talk” about these deaths. Watch the video here:
According to her, the orca pods had “physically ripped open” the sharks’ skins just below the throat in a “precise and refined” way in order for the organs to slip out.
It has been speculated since 2017 that orcas may have been attacking sharks along the South African coast. Sevengill sharks were discovered on the coast, washed up post-death, and missing livers. Gradually, other species including the great white sharks were also attacked.
The great white sharks don’t have a reputation for showing up dead on any coasts, they are rarely available for biological studies, according to Towner. The very first great white shark autopsied still had its liver, but it was covered in razor-like cuts. Later, more sharks showed up dead, with hearts, livers, and even testicles missing. Gradually, the attacks on sevengills and great whites were compared, and many shark experts agreed that these were indeed caused by killer whales.
Researchers also used ‘demographic’ data of the coast to arrive at this conclusion. Reports suggested the arrival of killer whales was followed by diminished numbers of great white sharks in areas like False Bay, which are generally gathering spots for them.
Many guesses were made, including possible overfishing, but finally, a team of researchers from multiple countries have confirmed that killer whales are hunting these sharks for their nutritious organs.