Confirmation that killer whales hunt blue whales

Killer whales are the ultimate marine predators. Blue whales are the largest animals that exist on the planet. In 2019, an Australian tour company captured on video a large group of killer whales hunting a blue whale. With the sighting of several similar cases scientists confirm that killer whales hunt blue whales.

killer whales hunt blue whales

Killer whales are marine predators and apply various hunting techniques

The killer whale belongs to the dolphin family, being its largest exponent. They can reach about 9 meters long and weigh about six tons, in the case of males. They reach speeds of up to 40 kilometers per hour and can dive up to 250 meters deep.

Likewise, the hunting methods of killer whales are impeccable. They gather in matriarchal families and their hunting techniques are passed down from generation to generation. Their hunting is based on cooperative stratagems. Although the technique varies according to the prey to be hunted. For example, the killer whales that inhabit the southern seas create waves to bring down the seals on the ice floes. One group generates the waves and another waits for the seal to fall off the ice floe.

Another technique involves hauling a school of fish to the surface so that the whole group can feed. Other killer whales dive towards the beach and produce an intentional stranding. This technique, common in Argentine Patagonia, is used to hunt sea lions resting on the beach.

To hunt animals that exceed them in size, such as whales or sharks, they have more refined techniques. They surround them in groups to provoke the wear and fatigue of the victim. When the prey is already tired, the killer whales attack it to devour it.

Several sightings have confirmed that killer whales hunt blue whales

However, until the named video captured it, biologists had doubts about whether orcas were capable of hunting blue whales. These whales are about 25 meters long and weigh 120 tons.

The sighting occurred in Bremer Bay in Australia in March 2019. A large group of killer whales surrounded a blue whale and attacked it to death. They then fed on it. It is the first time the human eye has been able to capture such an event. Although only a month later, in April 2019, the event was repeated again. This second time left no doubt to biologists, killer whales hunt blue whales.

killer whales hunt blue whales
Image taken from National Geographic-Photo by Hiroya Minakuchi

Two years later, in March 2021, a team of biologists observed a similar scene. A pod of 12 orcas interrupt the passage of a blue whale and surround it. The first group of orcas is joined by another group and together they begin to bite the whale. The blue whale has no choice but to dive, even though this is the orcas’ goal.

Nevertheless, biologists believe that these events are encouraging. Blue whales are recovering in numbers from human poaching of whales. However, they are still endangered, but their numbers have increased in recent times. For this reason they believe that the orcas are once again feeding on an old food source.

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