WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Researchers have observed that great white sharks flee when killer whales arrive in their area.
- The white sharks preferred to avoid the orcas and moved farther away to find other seal colonies to hunt.
- Attacks on elephant seals also lessened after the orcas arrived in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
Great white sharks are usually what come to mind when you think about the top dog in the oceans. However, a new study published Tuesday in Nature suggests that might not be the case.
Lead author of the study and senior research scientist at Monterey Bay Aquarium, Salvador Jorgensen, said that when faced with orcas, white sharks preferred to vacate the area, even if it’s their preferred hunting ground. Even if the killer whales are just passing through, the sharks leave and don’t return until the next season (that’s up to a year).
This behavior was observed at the marine sanctuary near San Francisco called the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The predators don’t often encounter each other here – the white sharks stay for around a month every fall, while orcas only pay an occasional visit. Though some of the white sharks that dominate the area are over 18 feet long, they swim offshore and feed on other seal colonies farther along the coast once the orcas arrive.
The interaction between the two predators benefits the elephant seals in the sanctuary. Based on the study, after white sharks would flee, there were 4 to 7 times fewer seal attacks annually.
It is still not sure if the white sharks fled because the orcas hunted or bullied the other predator, but the interactions definitely affect the food chain. Scot Anderson, a Monterey Bay Aquarium said, “After orcas show up, we don’t see a single shark and there are no more kills.”
Source: USA TODAY