Orcas may look cute, but people don’t call them killer whales for no reason. Although surely not lacking in the traditional strength department, they aren’t afraid to put their brains to work. Below are five ingenious hunting methods they came up with that show how smart and adaptive these creatures can be.
1. They Make Great White Sharks Go into a Coma
Great whites may not make for the safest prey, but that’s nothing a few tricks can’t fix. Killer whales came up with several methods to flip the sharks upside down, which puts them in a comatose state. They use water pressure to achieve this. Sometimes they cleverly swim next to and above the shark to create the necessary water pressure. Other times they push the shark to the surface and deliver a karate chop to its head with their tail.
2. They Bait Seagulls by Spitting out Fish
To a killer whale, a fish is nothing more than a small snack. An orca in Marineland came up with a clever trick to turn its meager catch into a much more satisfying meal. It spits out the fish on the surface, then hides just below. When an unexpecting seagull descends to pick up its free meal, the orca springs its death trap. It even taught this newly discovered hunting trick to other members of its group, who now use it as well.
3. They Use Climate Change to Their Advantage to Hunt New Prey
Narwhals are medium-sized whales with a giant tusk of 1.5 to 3.1 m (4.9 to 10.2 ft) protruding from their lip. Fights between narwhals and killer whales often lead to the death of both creatures. As such, this prey was mostly off-limits to killer whales. Due to climate change, however, there is a lot less Arctic pack ice surrounding their breeding grounds. Killer whales are exploiting this vulnerability by charging Narwhal pods in group formation, leaving them nearly helpless in shallow water.
4. They Surf to Capture Sea Lion Cubs
A common defense against killer whales is to hide in areas they cannot reach. While most sea creatures are limited to shallow water, those able to breathe on the surface sometimes hide on rocky surfaces. Killer whales have found a way around this too, however. They use the tides to their advantage and patiently wait for the perfect wave to surf towards their victim. Snatching up their prey this way, they use a second wave to surf back safely to deeper water.
5. They Create Waves of Their Own to Catch Seals
It is impossible for killer whales to reach seals when they are on an icy surface, but killer whales found a way for the seals to come to them instead. They start by chipping away the borders of the ice and then push the ice block out to open sea. They then swim towards the ice at high speed, diving at the last moment. This creates huge waves, washing away the seals from the ice into the water.
Do Killer Whales Have No Weaknesses?
Killer whales are very adaptive, using their already impressive physique in clever ways. They do have one glaring weakness, however. While ceasing all communication during the hunt as to not alert their target, they tend to celebrate loudly after making a kill. Several creatures, such as great whites and narwhals, recognize these celebrations. They then immediately flee the vicinity, denying the whales their next meal.