It has been noticed for the first time that a group of orcas – sometimes known as killer whales – are hunting and murdering blue whales (and eating their tongues), which are by far the biggest mammal on the planet.
According to a paper published in the journal Marine Mammal Science, the scientific community has been debating for years whether orcas are capable of hunting the enormous blue whales.
However, marine scientists from Cetrec WA (Cetacean Research) have now provided an answer to this topic after three incidences of orca groups attacking blue whales off the coast of Western Australia were seen and documented by them. Killer whales went into the massive whales’ mouths to consume their nutritionally dense tongues right before they died.
“Here we provide the first documentation of killer whales killing and eating blue whales: two individuals killed, 16 days apart in 2019, and a third in 2021,” researchers concluded in the paper. “Notably, the first whale taken appeared to be a healthy adult.”
When researchers arrived at the scene of the first slaughter of a 72 foot (21.95m)-long blue whale, they discovered massive portions of skin and fat had been gouged from its body, as well as the majority of the dorsal fin had been chewed off.
It was followed by a barrage of orca strikes, in which three of them lined up against the blue whale and forced it underwater, while the other two attacked the whale’s head.
According to the findings of the research, 50 orcas joined the pack for six hours to feast on the corpse of a whale.
The next incident took place a few weeks later, when a blue whale calf was targeted. The 12-meter (40-foot) long animal was attacked by 25 orcas.
The last assault reported by the research was on a 14-meter-long (45-foot-long) blue whale that was hunted for 24 kilometers (15 miles) over the course of 90 minutes.
Once again, the orcas’ hunting approach was to drive and smash the whale beneath the water while others assaulted its head and tongue. The carcass of the slaughter was consumed by a 50-strong pack.
Previous research suggested that in order for orca assaults to be effective, they needed to be carried out by the largest killer whales, which are usually male and may grow to reach 9 meters (30 feet) in length.
However, according to the groundbreaking research, these attacks were actually carried out by female orcas, with the study stating that the need to feed their young may cause them to be more violent in their attacks.
“This is the biggest predation event on this planet: the biggest apex predator taking down the biggest prey. We don’t have dinosaurs anymore, so for me as a whale biologist and a zoologist. It’s an amazing thing.”
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