Video captured for the first time

Great white sharks have mysteriously disappeared from South African shores, and scientists may now know why.

A new paper published Monday in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecology shows the first confirmed sighting of a pod of orcas, also known as killer whales, hunting a great white shark. The killing was filmed in May at Hartenbos Beach, South Africa, according to a statement from the Ecological Society of America.

“This behavior has never been observed in detail before, and certainly never from the air,” said lead author Alison Towner, senior shark scientist at the Marine Dynamics Academy in Gansbaai, South Africa.

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The impacts of this newly observed behavior could have a significant impact on the local ecosystem and tourism.

The authors of the paper believe the footage suggests this behavior of killing great white sharks is spreading among killer whales, highly intelligent and social marine mammals that hunt in groups. Previous studies have found that killer whales spread new behaviors over time through cultural transmission.

Only two killer whales have previously been linked to hunting great white sharks in South Africa, but attacks have never been seen in action. In the video, five whales surround the shark and eat it. The researchers assume that the same group was seen by another pilot just before the event attacking two sharks in the same area.

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A well-known killer whale called Starboard, who can be seen eating the shark’s liver in the video, has previously been linked to a series of shark carcasses washed up on the beach in South Africa.

The study provides new insights into how sharks defend themselves to evade capture by killer whales.

The attack scared off all but one of the great white sharks in the area for a time, according to survey data before after the predation event. Researchers first observed this flight response to killer whales in 2015 and 2017 in False Bay, South Africa.

“Sharks eventually abandoned former key habitats, which had significant implications for both the ecosystem and shark tourism,” said Dr. Alison Kock, shark expert and parks marine biologist. South African nationals.

The presence of killer whales caused the sharks to use escape strategies commonly seen in seals and turtles.

Camille Fine is a Trending Visual Producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team.

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