Goliath Versus Goliath
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Scientists have discovered that the terrifying great white sharks are not so invincible after all: They are hunted and eaten by killer whales, the Washington Post reported.
In 2017, a research team initially found the carcasses of five sharks on South Africa’s coast. Four of the great whites were missing a liver, while the fifth one didn’t have a heart.
The team later determined that the five were victims of a pair of male orcas – named Port and Starboard – which fed on the sharks’ nutrient-rich liver.
In their study, they wrote that Port and Starboard – and possibly other orcas – were impacting the shark population off the South African coast.
Researchers studied the waters near Gansbaai, a popular shark viewing destination about 75 miles east of Cape Town. The area was known to be teeming with the apex predator in the months leading up to the 2017 attacks. But as the orcas began to appear, shark sightings became rarer, researchers reported.
They concluded that the arrival of the orcas – also an apex predator that is 50 percent larger than a great white – displaced the shark population.
The authors suggested that the killer whales moved to Gansbaai because of a decline in the fish they prey on elsewhere. Similar shark displacements have been recorded off the coast of San Francisco, California.
Still, they warned that this encroachment by orcas destabilizes the ecosystem.
“Ecology is a balance,” said lead author Alison Towner. “Remove sharks at the top and everything is disrupted, smaller predators dominate and the system can potentially collapse or certainly some species within it.”