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Half-Eaten Great White Shark Washes Ashore in Australia - But What Chomped It in Half?
A clear case of jawmicide.
Someone get Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne) on the phone, because we’ve got a murder mystery in Victoria, Australia and it’s a doozy. Over the course of the first season of Poker Face (streaming now on Peacock) Charlie sprints across the continental U.S. on the run from her troubles, solving mysteries along the way. We’re between seasons right now but the murder mysteries just keep coming and this one has teeth.
Recently, Portland Bait and Tackle, located in Portland Victoria, Australia, posted pictures and video of a Great White shark, dead and dismembered, on the beach at Bridgewater. Rather, they posted pictures and video of what was left of it. In the images, it’s clear that the front half of the shark is largely intact. The top of the shark stretches roughly three meters from tooth to tail, but most of the back half of the underbelly is missing. Only shredded trailing bits remain.
What Killed a Great White Off the Coast of Australia?
The shop described the sighting as “equal parts cool and terrifying” before speculating that the shark was offed by killer whales. It’s a reasonable assumption, given the visible damage and the known history of orcas and white sharks. That speculation was met with some skepticism with one commenter asking how the shop knew killer whales were responsible.
“We don’t,” the shop responded. “But orcas were spotted in the area 3 or 4 days ago, and they are known to attack white sharks, the only other thing it possibly could be would be a bigger white shark.” That answer satisfied most but not all of the commenters with a number of other suggestions rolling in.
“Looks like a propeller got him and barnacles under his jaw,” one commenter suggested. It’s difficult to imagine a Great White, Jaws herself, being taken down by anything else. A sentiment expressed by one commenter who said, “What the heck is out there capable to cause this much damage on one of the already largest mammals [sic] in the sea?" Most suggested that the bait shop was right in their estimate but one commenter dared to suggest it might have been “something we don’t know even exists.”
An Ongoing Surf War Between Orcas and Great Whites
Short of Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken having an adolescent outburst at a shark’s expense, it’s likely the death did occur at the
hands jaws of killer whales. Indeed, the crime scene is reminiscent of recent events off the coast of South Africa, where a pair of killer whales seems to be systematically hunting down white sharks, eating their organs, and discarding their corpses.
This kind of orca on shark crime does happen, but it isn’t historically common and usually happens farther out to sea. As a result, the bodies are less likely to wash up on the beach, according to Alison Towner from the Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science at Rhodes University in Makhanda, South Africa. SYFY WIRE spoke with Towner about the previous attacks in South Africa.
When killer whales do attack white sharks, these sorts of disembowelings are typical. That’s because killer whales don’t eat indiscriminately, and instead preferentially chow down on a prey item’s tastiest bits. In the case of white sharks, that’s the liver. It makes up about a third of a Great White’s total body weight and is incredibly nutrient dense. From an orca’s point of view, the rest of the shark is garnish surrounding the juicy center.
The real mystery here is why these sorts of events seem to be happening more frequently. Of course, it could be a statistical anomaly that will level out over time, but it might also be our fault. Shifting environment forces, driven largely by human activity, might be changing the way white sharks and killer whales behave, pushing them toward more frequent dust ups. To find out, we’re going to need Charlie Cale, or some additional research.
In the meantime, catch up on the complete first season of Poker Face, streaming now on Peacock!