When confronted with an orca, it seems that Jaws pauses for a moment to think – while new research reveals that great white sharks beat a hasty retreat if orcas are around.
What happens when top-level predators meet on land is well documented, but little is known about similar interactions in our oceans.
To find out, an American research team led by the Monterey Bay Aquarium searched for encounters between great white sharks and orcas – also known as orcas – in electronic tagging and observation data.
In any case where the two predators came in contact, the sharks turned their tails and fled from the killer whales, researchers found.
Elephant seals are perhaps the real winner of the battle for predators, because shark exodus mean that more of their young puppies survive.
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Faced with an orca (photo), it even seems that Jaws pauses for a moment to reflect – while new research reveals that great white sharks beat a hasty retreat when orcas are roaming (file photo)
In any case where the two predators came in contact, the sharks turned their tails and fled from the orcas (photo), the researchers found (file photo)
Predator about encounters with predators – & # 39; lateral interactions & # 39; called – are well known on the mainland, but how they play in the ocean is poorly understood.
Research, led by a research team led by Salvador Jorgensen from Monterey Bay Aquarium, is about to see what happens in the rare cases that sharks and killer whales eventually occupy the same waters.
They concentrated their studies on the seas around the southeastern island of Farallon, off the coast of San Francisco.
The team compared data from electronic shark tags with field observations of killer whale observations.
The shark data contained 165 of the predators that were tagged between 2006 and 2013.
The monitoring data from the Farallon Islands went further back – spread over 27 years – and included surveys of local killer whale, seal and shark figures.
& # 39; The research in this article combines two very robust data sources & # 39 ;, said co-author Jim Tietz, a biologist at Point Blue Conservation Science.
& # 39; By supplementing the new shark tagging data from the Aquarium with Point Blue & # 39; s long-term wildlife monitoring at the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, we were able to show convincingly how white sharks disappear from the area when the orcas & # 39; s appear. & # 39;
In total, the researchers report four different encounters between the two highest-level predators around the Southeastern island of Farallon during the research period.
& # 39; When faced with killer whales, white sharks will immediately leave their favorite hunting grounds and will not return for up to a year & # 39 ;, said Dr. Jorgensen.
This happens, he added, & # 39; although the orcas only pass, & # 39;
It is not clear at this time whether the orcas are actively targeting white sharks, or whether they are simply presenting unwanted competition for the calorie-rich elephant seals.
Data from the electronic tags revealed that the sharks fled the area within minutes of the orca's appearance.
& # 39; These are huge white sharks. Some are more than 18 feet long (5.5 meters), and usually they rule the stick, &erson said.
& # 39; We have been watching some of these sharks for the last 15 to 20 years – and some even longer. & # 39;
After being displaced by the arrival of killer whales, the sharks could either be found further along the shoreline, aimed at different elephant seal colonies, or be led at sea, the researchers said.
Although the sharks can unexpectedly turn the orca's tail, other animals benefit from the predators who are scared.
White sharks come together on the Farallon Islands every year between September and December to hunt young sea elephants.
The shark usually spends a month around the southeastern island of Farallon hunting for seals.
& # 39; On average, we document about 40 elephant seal predation events by white sharks on southeastern Farallon Island each season, & # 39; said Anderson.
However, after the orcas & # 39; s appeared, he added: & # 39; we don't see a single shark and there are no more killings. & # 39;
As a result, the data show that 4-7 times fewer sea elephants had been killed by sharks in the years the orcas appeared.
Although transient orcas are also known to hunt sea elephants, they are rare on the island.
The results of the study emphasize the importance of considering the interactions between such top marine predators as sharks and orcas, the researchers say.
Even the orca-shark interactions in the new study happen relatively rarely – so it may take a while for the dynamics to be fully understood, Dr. Ir. Jorgensen on.
& # 39; I think this shows how food chains are not always linear & # 39 ;, he said.
& # 39; We do not usually think about how fear and risk avoidance can play a role in shaping where large predators hunt and how it affects ocean ecosystems. & # 39;
& # 39; It appears that these risk factors are very strong even for large predators such as white sharks – strong enough to divert their hunting activities to less preferred but safer areas, & # 39; he concluded.
The full findings of the study were published in the scientific journal Reports.
Researchers will look at what happens in the rare cases that sharks and orcas end up in the same waters. They concentrated their studies on the seas around the island of Farallon in Southeast Asia, off the coast of San Francisco in the US
HOW SHARKS EARN THEIR RUTHLESS REPUTATION
Sharks are the most efficient predators on earth and have long-feared people.
Their basic design has never really changed over the course of 200 million years and they are considered complex and intelligent.
Their teeth are the number one fear factor, with the teeth from the large white to two and a half inches long.
Their prey is impaled on the pointed teeth of the lower jaw where they saw away parts of the meat. The toothed edges of the teeth help with this process.
Their teeth are brittle and constantly break down, but they also grow constantly and on average there are 15 rows of teeth in one mouth.
Sharks are the most efficient predators on earth. Their basic design has never really changed over the course of 200 million years
Their speed is fear factor number two.
They are very fast in the water compared to humans, with the mako shark able to reach an incredible 60 mph in bursts.
The large white can reach speeds of 25 mph.
For comparison: 5 mph is the fastest that a person can reach.
The power and size of a shark also frightens us.
The great white shark can grow up to 20 feet and although it has no specific taste for humans, even an exploratory bite is enough to cut a man in half.
Most sharks release a person after his first bite, but sometimes that's all it takes to kill someone.
However, sharks have much more reason to be afraid of people. We kill a million a year, often just cutting their fins to make soup and throw the rest of the shark back into the water, where it wipes out or drowns.