Hammerhead shark gets outwitted by its clever prey

The spotted eagle ray flies out of the water to avoid being eaten, but what it did next saved its life.

The spotted eagle ray flies out of the water to avoid being eaten, but what it did next saved its life. Photo: Courtesy of Ralph De Bie/Caters News

The favorite food of a hammerhead shark is said to be rays and they are quite adept at hunting them down with incredible speed. But don't sell rays short. They can sometimes prove adroit themselves.

Ralph De Bie from Amsterdam can attest to that.

De Bie was surfing with friends in Panama last month when they decided to stop at the south end of Zapatila Island.

"Two of us jumped off the boat and seconds later on the other side of the boat we saw the ray jump with the fin just behind it," De Bie told Caters News (via The Telegraph).

A hammerhead shark was chasing a spotted eagle ray, and De Bie captured a sequence of images of the encounter. Short, grainy and distant video footage of the chase can be seen on the New York Post story.

"The fin was just huge and the aggression was fierce," De Bie said.

To elude the hammerhead shark, the spotted eagle ray flew out of the water a few times, but what it did next saved its life.

"The ray's solution was to beach itself and take a wave back out to sea and by doing so it managed to survive this epic battle,” De Bie said.

The spotted eagle ray beaching itself to escape its predator. Photo: Courtesy of Ralph De Bie/Caters News

"The shark tried to come all the way up the beach but couldn't get far enough.

"It all ended well, and we were so excited by the fight we ended up forgetting about the surfing."

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For unknown reasons, spotted eagle rays will often jump out of the water even when not being chased by a predator.

"Scientists speculate that leaping rays may be females trying to avoid unwanted male attention, or they may do it to shake off parasites or remoras," Bermuda's Department of Environment and Natural Resources wrote. "They may also perform these noisy belly-flops just for fun."

Or perhaps it's to keep them sharp for when they have to avoid a hammerhead shark.