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Study: Orca pair drives away and kills great white sharks in South Africa


Great white sharks in South Africa are now avoiding their traditional habitat, the coastal area around Gansbaai, for fear of being attacked by a pair of orcas. According to a study, this has an impact on the ecosystem of the sea.

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Orcas "Port" and "Starboard" off South Africa

Photo: Simon Elwen / dpa

In South Africa, a pair of orcas are driving great white sharks out of their natural habitat.

According to a study published Thursday in the African Journal of Marine Science, great white sharks are now avoiding the coastal area around Gansbaai out of fear - it was previously considered one of the most legendary areas in the world for sighting the giant predators.

Since 2017, eight great white sharks have washed ashore in the region after an orca attack, according to the study.

Seven of them were missing their livers, and some were also missing their hearts: wounds clearly inflicted by the same pair of orcas.

Researchers suspect it also killed other great white sharks that didn't wash ashore.

The two animals are referred to in the study by the names Port and Starboard.

Orcas (killer whales) are distributed worldwide and feed on fish and seals, among other things.

The study started in 2017.

The results indicate that the attacks in the region have triggered a rapid and long-term mass displacement of great white sharks.

Great white shark sightings in Gansbaai have "decreased dramatically" since 2017.

Gansbaai is located in South Africa's Western Cape Province.

The place attracts tourists from all over the world who want to see great white sharks from dive cages.

“We are observing a large-scale avoidance strategy.

The more orcas visit these sites, the longer the great whites stay away," said study lead author Alison Towner.

The absence of the great white sharks is unprecedented for the region and is changing the marine ecosystem.

Fewer great white sharks, for example, led to greater numbers of Cape fur seals.

This has a negative impact on the endangered African penguins that the seals hunt.

  • The study in the original: Fear at the top - killer whale predation drives white shark absence at South Africa's largest aggregation site 

As yet unreleased data suggests that orca presence is increasing in coastal regions of South Africa.

It is thought the orca pair may belong to a rare shark-eating subspecies that preys on at least three species of sharks.

The changes in hunting behavior could be related to a decline in various fish populations that were previously prey for orcas, Towner said.


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-06-30

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