Hitting submarines whales

Killer whale hunting techniques

Killer whales are the oceans most sophisticated hunters. Even young animals practice putting dangerous prey out of action and attacking perfectly in a team

Again and again the orcas in the Antarctic had circled this darned ice floe on which a seal had taken refuge. So how do you grab the delicacy? Wait for the seal to come down? That could take forever. Tip over or break the clod? It was too big for that. Finally the whales tried a trick: individual animals swam towards the floe to create a wave. It actually spilled over the ice and washed the seal towards the edge.

Close and ever closer to the edge. But the seal could still hold up. Until the orcas improved their technique: At the command of an orca, four shot at it side by side - like a wall of bodies. This made the wave so huge that it pushed the seal off the floe like a beach ball.

Big killer whales, as the orcas are also called because of their powerful dorsal fin, almost always get what they want. Researchers are often amazed at how resourcefully the up to nine meters long and nine tons heavy powerhouses hunt their prey:

Hunting technique 1: The karate strike

The technique for killing sharks consists of two parts: First, the orca swims under the shark and flaps its tail fin to create a vortex. This drives the shark to the surface of the water. There the victim gets a blow on the body, which numbs him and makes him defenseless.

Hunting technique 2: making the wave

Whales in Antarctica use this technique to catch seals or penguins that have taken refuge on an ice floe. At the command of an orca, other animals in the group swim side by side towards the piece of ice. They create a large wave that washes down the seal. On the other side, another whale from the team is waiting to grab the prey before it can escape.

Hunting technique 3: lay out the bait

Captive orcas have come up with a completely new trick: the killer whale lets pieces of fish float on the water and waits quietly below the surface. As soon as a bird lands to get the treat, it snaps.

Hunting technique 4: Use your own stamina

Bluefin tuna cannot catch orcas with a direct attack. You are too quick and agile. The whales therefore first rush them in front of them in a group until the speedsters are at the end of their tether after half an hour.

Hunting technique 5: Create a dead end

This is a trick killer whales like to use to hunt seals in Argentina. The robbers drive their prey towards the flat bank, where it cannot escape down below. When the seal tries to flee on land, it is stopped for a moment in the surf by the returning water. That's enough for the whale to catch the seal. This trick takes a lot of practice - otherwise the hunter will be stranded on the bank and perish there.

Hunting technique 6: Dip whales

In the group, the large killer whales can even kill much larger gray or blue whales. First an animal is separated from its group, then the hunters take turns swimming over their prey and pushing it under water until it drowns.

Hunting technique 7: Start a fish carousel

Orcas love herrings. The problem: In large schools, the fish shoot up so quickly that the hunters cannot catch some of them. The whales therefore first separate part of the swarm and drive it to the surface, where it cannot escape.

Then they circle the prey and drive the fish even closer together. Finally, a whale hits the fish package with its tail fin. The animals hit sink down in a daze, where other orcas pick them up.

Profile: killer whale

  • Scientific name: Orcinus orca
  • Size: over 9 meters long
  • Weight: up to 10 tons
  • Lifespan: up to 50 years
  • Habitat: all oceans
  • Diet: fish-eaters, mammal-eaters, fish, seals, penguins, other whales

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