Why Are Killer Whales Ripping Livers Out of Their Shark Prey?
Life as a carnivore is often tough. You have to catch your meals on the run, and depending on the predator, more than 80 percent of attempts to grab a bite can end in failure.
Because of this, scientists have often assumed that predators take what they can get from their prey and can’t afford to be picky. But gruesome scenes in South Africa have turned that idea on its head: killer whales are taking down a dozen or more sharks in one day—and rather than feasting on every meaty morsel, the orcas are meticulously cutting out the livers and leaving the rest of their kill to rot. This preference for a particular organ is not odd for orcas, according to marine biologists. They’re known around the world for going after the choicest cuts from their prey.
“One of the best well-known examples is from Eden, New South Wales, Australia, where whalers and killer whales cooperatively hunted baleen whales,” says Isabella Reeves, a doctoral candidate in marine biology at Flinders University in Australia. These 19th-century whalers collected the bulk of the carcass, but the orcas…