NewsBloodthirsty orca. Unbelievable, what was found in her stomach

Bloodthirsty orca. Unbelievable, what was found in her stomach

Orca during hunting, illustrative picture.
Orca during hunting, illustrative picture.
Images source: © Center for Whale Research | Astrid van Ginneken

9:11 AM EDT, October 4, 2023, updated: 8:59 AM EDT, October 5, 2023

Researchers in Russia examined a dead female orca, whose body was found on a beach far from the natural territory of these animals. The predator's innards concealed seven otters, which had been swallowed whole. It's possible that the whale's insatiable appetite contributed to its death.

The body of the killer whale was found on the coast of one of the Commander Islands. This is a cluster of small islands located on the Bering Sea, east of Kamchatka. This is the first of the puzzling issues. Scientists classified the killer whale as a species that lives in the Gulf of Alaska up to roughly the Aleutian Islands line.

What's most astounding, however, is what was found in the killer whale's guts. They pulled out seven otters, weighing a total of 257 pounds. Never before have otters been classified as part of the killer whale's diet. Even stranger, all had been swallowed whole, which is contrary to the predator's natural habits of often tearing their prey apart.

The discovery is remarkable. Orcas normally do not eat sea otters. There have been few observations of harassments and killings of sea otters, but very little evidence of actual consumption - explained in an interview with IFLScience, Dr. Olga Filatova, a cetacean researcher at Moscow University.

Why did the killer whale swallow several otters whole?

Researchers are unable to provide a clear answer to the question of why the orca fed in such a way. - Maybe it was very hungry, sick, or crazy - suggests Dr. Filatova. Orcas prefer to hunt seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales the most.

The insides of the killer whale hid as many as seven swallowed otters.
The insides of the killer whale hid as many as seven swallowed otters.© Olga Filatova

The mere examination of the entrails of dead killer whales is nothing unusual. It's a step that researchers often take. Thanks to it, they can learn a lot of valuable information about feeding on different species.

It is possible that the above case is related to the decline in the number of sea otters in the waters off the coast of Alaska and the Aleutians, which has been observed for several years. The body washed up on the Commander Islands may suggest that killer whales indeed have a habit of hunting sea otters. This is the first direct evidence of such behavior.

What is most puzzling, however, is swallowing the prey whole. Six otters were found in the orca's stomach, one in the throat, at the junction of the mouth and esophagus. The researchers do not rule out that the last otter could have caused the orca's death.

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