Orcas Attack Blue Whales; Scientists View Deadly Assault For First Time Ever

Orcas, sometimes called Killer Whales, are the ocean’s apex predator. They even kill great white sharks. But will orcas attack blue whales?

Blue Whale (1832) by George
Blue Whale (1832) by George by Museum of New Zealand is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0. These maritime giants were nearly extincted by humans and still face challenges

It was uncertain as the blue whale is still believed to be the largest creature to have ever lived. But scientists have now seen orcas attack in real time. The brutal truth is clear: in large pods orcas attack and kill blue whales. According to Business Insider the attacks under study took place several years ago and were recently reported in the journal Marine Mammal Science. The orcas attack occurred in Western Australia. It was one of three within a month.

A detailed account was posted in LiveScience. Live Science quoted Kristy Brown,, a marine biologist with Naturaliste Charters, who observed the event and blogged about it.( NOTE: researchers worldwide are saddened because a research biologist with the same name was drowned recently following a leopard seal attack. UPDATE: The researcher killed was Kirsty Brown not Kristy Brown. The incident occurred in July, 2003. I apologize for the error.

The attacking orcas numbered up to 70. The battle took hours and only ended when the orcas were able to force the whale’s jaw open. They then swam in and savaged the tongue before devouring the entire animal.

<em>Orcinus orca</em>, Killer Whale
Orcinus orca, Killer Whale by Photographer: David Ellifrit is licensed under CC-BY 4.0 Orcas are fierce, intelligent and cooperative hunters.They are not true whales but members of the dolphin family.

Brown said:

“It’s unclear whether the prey was a juvenile blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) or a pygmy blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda), as “both use these waters,” Brown told Live Science in an email. Regardless, the blue beast made a big mistake when it ventured alone into the canyon system, where orcas swim. 

Despite their name, orcas (Orcinus orca), which are also called killer whales, are not whales. Rather, they’re the largest species of the dolphin family, according to the Ocean Conservancy. And, like their “killer” name suggests, these marine mammals are known for hunting all kinds of prey, including humpback whalessealssea turtles and even great white sharks.

In this case, even though the blue whale was nearly twice the length of the largest orca, which can grow to lengths of about 31 feet (9.5 m), it couldn’t shake off its pursuers. “It was completely surrounded by orca[s] as it swam,” Brown wrote in the blog. Moreover, the orcas didn’t appear to rush the hunt, but instead were “strategic, thoughtful, collaborative, patient [and] persistent,” Brown wrote in the blog. ” Links in original.

Free shark image
Great white sharks (
Carcharadon carcharias) are fearsome predators but are sometimes eaten in orca attacks.

The whale wandered into shallower water. Blue whales can dive deeper than orcas and so escape. If they stay in deepr water.

Australia and its wildlife has been in the news recently. Hundreds of whales have beached themselves along the coast for unknown reasons.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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