Watch: Biologists record orcas take down massive blue whale

Biologists captured footage for the first time of orcas preying on an adult blue whale. Credit: John Daw

Biologists knew that orcas can take down some big prey. What they didn’t know was if they could take down the biggest prey. There were stories of orcas preying on blue whales, the largest animal on earth, but scientists didn’t have evidence. Then, a team of researchers observed it for themselves off the coast of Australia and caught it on video. They described the sighting in Marine Mammal Science.

“Within seconds, we realized they were attacking something big,” John Totterdell, a biologist at Cetacean Research Centre in Esperance, Australia, told Science News. “Then we realized, oh my, it was a blue whale.”

The team observed a dozen orcas (Orcinus orca) preying on an adult blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) at least 18 meters long. The researchers also described two other events, carried out by some of the same orcas in the same area, where migrating blue whales pass what may be the world’s largest aggregation of orcas.

Read more from Science News and watch a video of the event below.