- Stunning drone footage shows an orca carrying a great white shark in its mouth as blood pools.
- A study published last month suggested that killer whales had driven great whites from South African waters.
- The video supports the theory, which could have significant implications for the marine ecosystem.
Stunning drone footage taken off the coast of South Africa earlier this year shows three orcas in the process of killing a great white shark — supporting a theory that the apex predator has been driven from its typical habitat.
Shot for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week and airing Thursday, the footage was published by The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
The video begins with two orcas swimming close to the surface in the clear blue-green waters of South Africa’s Mossel Bay, known for its great whites.
Suddenly, a third orca emerges from the depths, carrying a 10-foot great white shark in its mouth. As the killer whale reaches the surface, blood pools around the dead shark. The killer whale carrying the shark dives back below the surface.
Alison Towner, a South Africa-based scientist who studies great whites, told The Daily Beast that they were “the world’s first drone footage of killer whales dating to a great white shark.” She added that it is the first “direct evidence” of the phenomenon 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, but researchers have identified rare instances of them being preyed upon by orcas.
A study published by the African Journal of Marine Science in June, of which Towner was an author, suggested that great white sharks had fled a common gathering spot in South Africa due to the presence of orcas.
The researchers noted that carcasses of dead great whites washed ashore with their livers ripped out, and for some without their hearts. The wounds on the sharks suggested they were made by the same pair of orcas, according to the study.
In the newly released drone footage, the killer whale is holding the shark near its liver.
The authors believed the attacks had triggered the migration of great whites from the area.
“What we seem to be seeing, however, is a large-scale avoidance strategy, mirroring what we’re seeing used by wild dogs in Tanzania’s Serengeti, in response to the increased lion presence,” Towner said at the time.
The study authors said the area’s decline in great whites may have contributed to the increase in another predator, the bronze whale shark, although they noted that species were also preyed upon 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 a pronounced impact on the ecosystem,” the study said.
The drone footage is expected to be broadcast Thursday during the “Shark House” special on Discovery and Discovery+.