The great white sharks have been considered the largest known predator of the Earth’s oceans. Many marine species, even humans, fear them. However, these sharks have someone they fear the most: the orca whale.
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A decade ago, senior research scientist Salvador Jorgensen from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and his team started studying this. His team was able to study these marine species in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary is a refuge for marine and wildlife off the California coast, giving the scientists the perfect area to observe the predators and their behavior. The study recently published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports found that great whites are extremely afraid of orcas, they would immediately leave an area as soon as they arrive.
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According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, the researchers noticed that while the sharks were easily successful and efficient at feeding off the local seal population, they feared for their lives as soon as a pod of orcas entered the scene. In fact, they wouldn’t return to the area for the rest of the season.
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Aside from that, the team discovered that the great whites consistently avoid areas where orcas are frequently seen. “When confronted by orcas, white sharks will immediately vacate their preferred hunting ground and will not return for up to a year, even though the orcas are only passing through,” Jorgensen explained. The team examined the records of around 165 great white sharks tagged in the Farallones between 2006 and 2013. After that, they compared it with whale, shark, and seal surveys collected there over 27 years.
The reason why the great whites are extremely fearful of the orcas is that the killer whales would mutilate them for their tasty organs, particularly their livers. “It’s like squeezing toothpaste,” explained Jorgensen.