The carcass of a great white shark that washed up on an Aussie beach is believed to be the victim of a brutal orca attack. In a series of photos shared online, the three-to-four metre shark can be seen lying on its back and ripped in half.
"What appears to have happened is multiple killer whales have grabbed onto the shark and split the belly open and that is what you see with that tearing pattern right under its pectoral fins," Dr Lauren Meyer, a trophic ecologist from Flinders University, told Yahoo News Australia.
Dr Meyer says the killer whales would have been after one particular part of the shark, which was found near Cape Bridgewater in Victoria. "Tearing the belly open allowed the liver, which is buoyant, to float out of the gap in the shark so the killer whales can just eat the liver and leave the rest of the shark," she explained.
But as for why they're picky eaters, scientists are still in the dark. "We're unsure why the liver is so tasty," Dr Meyer said. "It could be really high in calories so it might be the most efficient organ for them to eat, or they could be after specific nutrients that are found only in shark livers.
"We're currently running a global study to uncover exactly why killer whales select these tissues. We just don't have the answers yet."
It's not the first time this has happened
While the incident has horrified locals — with the owners of a local bait shop saying the discovery was "equal parts cool and terrifying" — it's not the first time this has happened in Australia.
"We have records of three different white sharks being attacked by killer whales in Australia before and the first recorded incident like this was in 1956," Dr Meyer said. "So it's not a new behaviour either."
Similar attacks by orca, which aren't actually whales but are more similar to dolphins, have been reported around the world in South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, California and New Zealand.
"We do see killer whales in this region of Victoria and some were sighted the day preceding this shark washing up, so we do know it's an important spot for killer whales," the trophic ecologist explained.
Similar attacks by orcas, which aren't actually whales but are more similar to dolphins, have been reported around the world in South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, California and New Zealand.tunity to eat some shark liver."
But as for locals, they've got nothing to worry about it. "Humans are unlikely to come across killer whales," Dr Meyer said. "These particular ones usually hang out pretty far offshore and they're such quick predators that they're not interested in interacting with humans."
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