Hunting, Killing The Rare Beaked Whales? Killer Whale Orcas Prey On This Species For The First Time

First Posted: Dec 17, 2016 02:20 AM EST

The marine biologists have seen the killer whales, known as orcas, hunting and killing the rare beaked whales for the first time off the coast of Australia. This behavior has never been observed before in the predatory species.

Orcas usually prey on dolphins, seals and calves of large whales, according to experts. They have not seen before orcas killing beaked whales. So, this new hunting behavior has changed their perception about the predatory nature of orcas.

The research team led by Rebecca Wellard at Curtin University in Perth had been conducting commercial whale-watching boats to study killer whales off Australia's south coast since 2014. The team has seen and captured in photos the groups of up to 20 killer whales that attacked and killed lone beaked whales.

The findings of the discovery were printed in the journal PLOS One. The team observed that the hunts lasted an hour or two. The killer whales hunted the beaked whales and killed them by biting them and forcing them under the water to drown. They also saw the killer whales stripping the carcasses of the beaked whales on two occasions. It is clear then that these are predatory attacks, according to New Scientist.

Beaked whales, also known as toothed whales, belong to the family of Ziphiidae that consists of 22 species. They are one of the least known groups of mammals. This is because of their mysterious habits, deep-sea habitat and low abundance. There are about only three to four of the 22 species that are well-known.

Beaked whales have elongated beaks and about 13 to 43 feet (4 to 13 meters) in length. They are one of the most extreme divers. They dive for an hour at a depth of more than 1,000 meters.

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