Even The Great Whites Run From The Orcas

Grace Higgins | March 13th, 2020

There happens to be one predator that makes the Great White shark swim away in terrifying fear. To think something can scare this apex predator, a 16-foot long torpedo that is nearly entirely made up of razor-sharp teeth. This means it has little to fear, only it does fear one species in the sea: the killer whales.


Salvador Jorgenson from the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been tracking the dreaded white sharks for many years. He started by shooting many of them with electronic tags that he could follow their movements around the Southeast Farallon Island throughout Californian waters. This is a known hunting ground for the white sharks due to the seal population on the island. In 2009 they tagged 17 great whites and they watched them spend several months circling the island.

Abruptly the hunting ended on November 2 of that same year, when two pods of orcas rolled through the waters. They simply swam past the island in the early afternoon, but in the little space of eight hours, all 17 of those great white sharks had quickly left the area. And they were not dead, the research team picked up their tags a while later in waters miles away. They had fled Farallon completely and many of them did not return for over a month.

And this was far from a one-off, Jorgenson recorded the same thing happening over and over again. The orcas would appear and the sharks would leave. It is true orcas do also eat seal, so maybe the sharks did not want to deal with the competition but it seemed very unlikely as the sharks would swim off nearly immediately. Killer whales do have many social skills that sharks lack, which allows them to hunt in packs. This means they have become quite effective at hunting great whites and kill them in very ingenious ways.

Some orcas will drive them to the surface and then proceed to karate chop them with their tails, others have even been witnessed turning the sharks upside down to induce them into the paralytic state. Orcas have been recorded killing the fastest shark the Makos and also the biggest the great whites. But it is the great whites where the killing becomes a little morbid, the killer whales appear to love the shark’s livers.

This has led to them slicing them up and squeezing out their livers like toothpaste. They don’t even rip them apart at all. The funny part is that the orcas don’t tend to stick around for long, so in the long run, it is the seals that are the true winners. Two predators square off and the seals have time to repopulate their numbers!

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