It's common knowledge that orcas and great white sharks are two of the scariest and most vicious oceanic predators, both fairly evenly matched in terms of size, speed and ferocity.
What we don't always know is which one of the two savage predators would win in a fight, because depending on the circumstances it's pretty much a toss-up.
But a recent discovery on the shores of South Africa's Western Cape province proves once and for all why orcas would win- because they're smart and precise killers, like Jack the Rippers of the sea:
The great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, is considered the most voracious apex predator in temperate marine ecosystems worldwide, playing a key role in controlling ecosystem dynamics.
As a result, it is difficult to imagine a great white as prey. And yet, earlier this year the carcasses of five great whites washed ashore along South Africa’s Western Cape province. Ranging in size from 2.7 metres (9ft) to 4.9 metres (16ft), the two females and three males all had one thing in common: holes puncturing the muscle wall between the pectoral fins. Strangest of all, their livers were missing.
The bite marks inflicted, together with confirmed sightings indicate that orcas, Orcinus orca, were responsible for this precisely-targeted predation.
The diet of orcas is often geographic or population specific. Those populations predating in South African waters have been documented targeting smaller shark species for their livers. Cow sharks, blues and makos caught on longlines have had their livers removed by orcas, alongside the brains of the billfish also caught. Cow shark carcasses without livers have also washed ashore near Cape Town, and again, this followed nearby orca sightings.
With no doubt that orcas are using highly specialised hunting strategies to target the liver; the real question is: why?