Great white sharks, one of the most feared animals on the planet, are not without their own predators. In the past week, three great white sharks have been killed by orcas off the coast of South Africa and had their livers removed, researchers have concluded. Prior to this shocking finding, there were no records of killer whales going after great white sharks in this region, though it has been documented elsewhere in a few rare incidents. Orcas are one of the most versatile and fearsome predators in the world, known to eat various types of sharks, seals and whales. But they usually avoid great whites.
Since May 3, all three great white carcasses have washed ashore in the region of Kleinbaai, a small harbour town in the Western Cape of South Africa. In the prior five years, only four sharks had been found on the beaches in this region, considered one of the best places in the world to dive with and see great whites.
A team of scientists from the area dissected all three of the sharks, and concluded that orcas were responsible for killing the great whites and removing their livers. (One also had its heart removed, likely by a hungry killer whale.) This organ has a high level of squalene, a hydrocarbon that’s an important for producing steroids and hormones.