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Scientists confirm Orcas can kill and eat blue whales

In March 2019, scientists studying whales near South West Australia stumbled across a surreal sight that few had ever seen before – a swarm of Orcas maliciously attacking a whale. green.

More than a dozen orcs surrounded the mighty beast. They had bitten off its dorsal fin, and the animal was unable to hide from agile and agile predators. The water came out red with the blood of a large creature, and parts of it floated around. Scientists have observed an orca rush into the mouth of a blue whale and swallow its tongue. It took an hour for the orcas to kill the blue whale, and after they did, about 50 other orcas showed up to eat the whale.

Orcas, also known as killer whales despite being a member of the dolphin family, are apex predators known to eat most large whale species. However, they often follow calves, not adults. This is the first time that orcas have been observed successfully killing and eating an adult blue whale.

The attack was the first of three such events witnessed between 2019 and 2021. These events, are described in an article. published last week in the journal Marine Mammal Science, halted a long-running debate among scientists about whether orcas can make a meal from an adult blue whale.

Robert Pitman, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University and author of the paper, said:

Anecdotal evidence that orcas are capable of producing meals from adult blue whales has been around for a long time, but it was not until 2019 that scientists were able to confirm this through direct observation.

Rebecca Wellard, founder and research lead at the ORCA Project, who was one of the researchers who witnessed the 2019 attack, said: “When we approached, we were surprised at the findings. what we are seeing. “When you come across a unique event like this, I think it takes a while to process what you’re seeing.”

The Blue Whale, the Largest Creature That Ever Lived, Can Grow length up to 110 feet, but the animal attacked was only 70 feet long, which raises questions about whether it was a younger blue whale. But Dr. Wellard and her team were able to photograph the blue whale before the orcas tore it to pieces. Based on its appearance, as well as the location and time of year it was photographed, they concluded it was an adult dwarf blue whale, a subspecies genetically similar to the largest whale species. , but with a smaller size and other distinguishing features.

Dwarf blue whales reach lengths of up to 79 feet, so the animal is most likely an adult.

“I think a fully-grown dwarf blue whale could be mistaken for a common juvenile blue whale,” said Erich Hoyt, a Whale and Dolphin Conservation researcher and author. of “Orca: The Whale Called Killer,” said. He was not involved in the study.

Mr Hoyt said that the fact that these orcas were able to successfully hunt this dwarf blue whale is strong evidence that they can do the same with even the biggest blue whales. “Blue whales are fast, but Orcas are faster,” he said.

The event that Dr Wellard and her team witnessed took place off the coast of Bremer Bay, a biologically rich area where large numbers of whales, blue whales and other crustaceans can be seen in certain times of the year.

“The killer whales we study off the coast of Bremer Bay are rewriting textbooks of what we thought we knew about this species,” said Dr. Wellard.

Photographs on whale-watching boats in the area have documented two other blue whale attacks since the one observed in 2019. More than a dozen orcs have coordinated both. Attacks on juvenile blue whales. While scientists have observed orcas with dead blue whales in the past, such attacks have yet to be documented end to end.

While the predation of blue whales by orcas is scary, scientists say it could be a positive sign for the health of whale species in the area. The whaling industry has almost driven blue whales to extinction, and the fact that sufficient numbers of them now exist to prey on orcas could hint at population growth.

“What we may see now is a return to ‘normality’ as populations of large whales and their predators continue to recover,” said Dr. Wellard. It is a matter of time before an observation like this is made. However, these hunts signal a positive step forward for the populations of both species.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/29/science/orcas-blue-whales.html Scientists confirm Orcas can kill and eat blue whales

Fry Electronics Team

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