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Killer whales are ripping open great white sharks off the coast of South Africa, eating their livers, hearts and testicles, scientists say.
Autopsies carried out on six sharks washed up on the shores of Gansbaai – about two hours from Cape Town – found they had been “physically ripped open” by the whales in a “precise and refined” way.
Marine biologist Alison Towner said the orcas tore the sharks’ skins just below the throat to create a cavity from which the liver – weighing up to 180 lbs – would slide out.
The scientist discussed the findings in an interview with the YouTube channel Shark Talk, Newsweek reports.
Ms Towner said great white sharks do not normally wash up dead after attacks, meaning they rarely become available for scientific study.
“It was really just shock and disbelief when we heard there’s another large, virtually adult white shark on the beach with its liver ripped out,” the biologist said.
“These injuries on the great whites were identical to those on the sevengills in false bay in that the animals were physically ripped open,” Ms Towner explained.
“I think two of the animals had both the heart removed and one male had his testes removed. Because they’re very close there in the body cavity.
“We think the two killer whales were learning to get hold of the pectoral fins. We don’t know for sure. It’s like a ripping motion. The liver… it’s oily, very slippery, it would naturally slide out so they could come along and share it.”
There have been reports of killer whales attacking sharks off the South African coast since 2017.
In recent years numbers of the great whites South Africa’s False Bay have been in sharp decline.
Three years ago five of the beasts of the deep were found washed up with huge wounds gauged out of their sides.
Chillingly, they were all missing their livers.
There are suspicions that two killer whales, Port and Starboard, who have been spotted in the same part of the ocean have been hunting down the sharks so they can rip out their fatty livers.
Experts claim the predator whales have acquired a taste for the sharks’ livers, which are rich in oil and fats, providing a valuable source of energy for the huge marine mammals.
Marian Nieuwoudt, a Cape Town environment official, said: “To our knowledge the absence of great white sharks from False Bay has not been recorded or reported before.
“Great white sharks are top apex predators and we do not know how their absence from False Bay would impact the ecosystem.
“Neither do we know the causes for their disappearance. We remain hopeful that the great whites will return to False Bay and will announce our first sighting when this happens.”
Orcas, also known as killer whales, are are the largest member of the dolphin family.
Worldwide, they have been observed preying on more than 140 species of animals, including many species of bony fish, sharks and rays, and 50 different species of marine mammals, according to Sea World.
Despite being carnivorous animals, killer whales don’t eat people or generally try to attack them.
The name “killer whale” comes from the fact that they have highly complex team oriented hunting methods, according to Whale Facts.
Ingrid Visser, an expert who has studied Orcas for nearly 20 years, says the beasts use powerful waves to drive sharks to the surface before attacking.
She said: “Once the shark is at the surface, the killer whale pivots and lifts its tail out of the water and comes down on top of it like a karate chop.”
This content was originally published here.