Orca vs. Blue Whale: Who Wins?


| LAST UPDATE 02/14/2022

By Elena White
orca blue whale news
WildestAnimal via Getty Images

We might have caught them splashing around at Sea World before. But in the wild, Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) are true predators - and now hold the prestigious 'King of the Sea' title. In a recent study published in Marine Mammal Science on January 21, Australian scientists have recorded not one, but three incidents' of orca's taking down blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus)! Those blue whales happen to be the largest species on the planet and now have something half their size to fear. Here's what to know.

It's been an ongoing debate whether orcas can take on fully grown, healthy blue whales of this nature - but this study has finally delivered the answer. Taking place off the coast of Western Australia, Totterdell and his team of scientists observed a pod of killer whales as they successfully took down an adult blue whale. Speaking to Science News, Totterdell recalls the events of the day as his team headed towards their usual orca spotting spot, almost missing the pod of 12 orcas in front of them due to the bad weather. "Within seconds, we realized they were attacking something big. Then we realized, oh my, it was a blue whale," he recalled. The blue whale is estimated to have been around 20 meters long!

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The orcas used a range of their usual hunting methods when approaching the blue whale, focusing on the fin, tail, and jaw. The orcas also worked together to ensure the blue whale could not go beyond or too far below the surface. In the published study, Totterdell and his colleagues also feature two other incidents of orca/blue whale attacks in 2019 and 2021 in the same location - supporting the fact that this is not an isolated event.

orca blue whale news
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Co-author Robert Pitman describes it to Science News as "the biggest predation event on the planet." But what can we learn from all this new information? In his article's opening chapter, Totterdell explains that by understanding the killer whale's role as the top predator in the sea, we can begin to examine its impact on the other marine communities - and in particular, the populations of the blue whale who are still recovering from their history of whaling and near extinction in the 19th and 20th-century. Stay tuned while this story continues to develop.

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