Duhdum. Duhdum. Duhdumduhdumduh-move over Jaws soundtrack, the long (wrongly) vilified white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is now being replaced with a top predator that you may not expect: killer whales (Orcinus orca)! White sharks and transient (i.e. marine mammal eating) killer whales have similarly preferred food sources, and in the northeastern Pacific, there is regional overlap at certain times of year where both species are hoping to eat some nutritious, plumpy pinnipeds (i.e. seals & sea lions). However, when killer whales are lurking around popular pinniped hangouts, white sharks will redistribute away from the area at an alarmingly fast rate and stay away for the rest of the season. Whether this means that white sharks skedaddle out of a seal buffet because they risk predation or they can’t compete with killer whales remains uncertain. Yet, scientists believe that evidence of killer whale predation on white sharks, as well as the rate at which the sharks flee, may mean that there is a new hunting tycoon in the great fathoms below!
Sketch and fact contributed by Karli Chudeau
Sources: Jorgensen, S. J., Anderson, S., Ferretti, F., Tietz, J. R., Chapple, T., Kanive, P., … Block, B. A. (2019). Killer whales redistribute white shark foraging pressure on seals. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 6153. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39356-2
If you want to read more about this marine predator face-off: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/04/great-white-sharks-flee-killer-whales/587563/