Animal funds

Orcas recorded for the first time killing and eating the largest animal in the world, the blue whale

Orcas teamed up to ram the whale’s side and force it underwater

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Horrifying details about how orcas hunt the world’s largest animal, the blue whale – like swimming in their mouths to eat their tongues before they die – have been revealed in a recently published article.

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Orcas are known for their ability to hunt in packs or groups and work together to kill their prey. There have been previous reports of orcas, also called killer whales, hunting blue whales; however, none of the attacks have been verified so far.

“This paper is the first to actually confirm the mortality of a blue whale and at the same time it provides firm confirmation that killer whales will prey on even mature, healthy blue whales,” said researcher Erich Hoyt. at Whale and Dolphin Conservation. Recount The Guardian.

The paper’s findings are also crucial to understanding killer whale dynamics. It was previously thought that in order to take down a blue whale, the male killer whales had to actively participate. Recent attacks demonstrate that efforts led by women could be successful. And it was presumed to be a female killer whale, involved in all the attacks, who first feasted on the whale’s tongue.

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Three attacks since 2019 have been recorded off Australia, in Bremer Bay, and were described in a report in marine mammal science. The attacks were observed from commercial whale watching vessels.

A dozen orcas were spotted attacking a blue whale, estimated to be 18 to 22 meters in length, on the morning of March 21, 2019. Chunks of blubber and skin, along with most of its dorsal fin, had been bitten, leaving “underlying bone exposed.”

After about 20 minutes, observers noticed the whale slowing down and starting to swim in circles. He was “bleeding profusely” and weakening.

The orcas teamed up to ram his side and force him underwater.

“While still alive,” the paper explains, “an adult female killer whale put her head in the blue whale’s mouth and began feeding on her tongue.”

When the whale finally began to sink, a sign of its death, a total of 50 orcas joined in to feed on the new prey.

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Orcas killed a blue whale calf in a second attack observed at noon on April 6, 2019. The orcas were seen taking turns striking in groups of five or six, while around 10 to 15 orcas remained on the outskirts . When the calf tried to dive, they pushed it to the surface. But when he tried to breathe on the surface, orcas “swam over his head and blowhole”.

Similar to the March attack, an adult female killer whale put her head in the blue whale’s mouth and fed on its tongue.

The carcass was submerged approximately 45 minutes later. Again the group reached around 50 orcas who continued to dive and feed on the kill for several hours.

The third attack was recorded on March 16, 2021. A dozen killer whales chased a blue whale, believed to be a yearling, for 25 km in a pursuit that lasted 97 minutes.

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The blue whale is an endangered species that can weigh up to 200 tons (that’s the weight of 33 elephants) and has a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, according to the World Wildlife Fund. There are about 10,000 to 25,000 left in the wild.

Although killer whales have been observed feeding on large whales, Hoyt told the Guardian that those in South Australia have an “unusually diverse diet”.

“It’s strange because elsewhere in the world,” he said, “killer whales are picky eaters and tend to learn from their group how to catch food, and what food is, and they stick with it, whether it’s salmon around Vancouver Island or baby sea lions in Punta Norte, southern Argentina.

The document cites orca predation as a “potential obstacle” to the recovery of other species, such as the western gray whale or the bowhead whale.

“It remains to be seen what impact this might have on blue whale recovery in Australia and elsewhere, as large whale populations continue to recover from commercial whaling,” he concludes.

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