What happens when a 16-foot great white shark encounters a 30-foot whale carcass?
The shark enjoys a buffet.
On Sunday, brothers and diving buddies Peter and Trevor Fulks captured this video of a great white shark snacking on what scientists say is almost certainly a dead minke whale. The brothers, who were returning from a trip to the Channel Islands with the Ocean Defenders Alliance, spotted the carcass in the Santa Barbara Channel at 3 p.m., about seven miles from shore.
A word of warning: The video above may be too graphic for some viewers. The whale has probably been dead for a few days, and in one of the opening shots, and subsequent shots, you can see its intestines floating on top of the water.
But Peter Fulks said the shark feast was the coolest thing he’d ever seen in the ocean in 13 years of diving nearly every weekend. He and his brother stayed for two hours watching the show.
The video above shows only one great white shark eating the whale, but other observers said they counted three great whites and about a dozen blue sharks chomping on the carcass as well.
A dead whale is an easy snack for great white sharks, said Jim Dines, mammalogy collection manager at the Natural History of Museum of Los Angeles. He said he cannot be sure how this particular whale died, but that it was likely it had been hit by a boat.
“It happens a lot more than it should,” he said.
The sharks are just the first of a host of animals that will turn to this dead whale for nourishment.
After “mobile scavengers” like the sharks chomp away the blubber and flesh from the carcass, it will fall to the bottom of the ocean, where it becomes a source of nutrition for all sorts of marine life, Dines explained.
“With all the flesh and nutrients that are on these dead whales, they act as mini-islands of habitat,” he said. “There are some organisms that go from whale fall to whale fall.”
You can read a very cool story about those small sea creatures, some known as the snot-flower bone-eater here).
Dines said in a matter of months, the remains of the whale will have disappeared from the ocean floor, devoured by these ocean scavengers.
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