A photographer off Monterey, Calif., has captured rare video footage - perhaps first of its kind - showing offshore killer whales passing around a live sevengill shark.
The drone footage, captured Tuesday by Slater Moore of Monterey Bay Whale Watch, reveals an adult killer whale clutching the shark in its jaws, and ultimately letting go so other orcas can have a taste.
This appears to have been a teaching experience for very young calves, which also can be seen in the extraordinary clip.
"It's a very rare sighting, and an extraordinary observation," said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a researcher with the California Killer Whale Project.” I do not think that anyone has drone footage of this prey sharing, involving very small calves, in California.”
Stated Moore on Facebook: "So lucky to get to see this!"
Offshore killer whales, first identified in 1988, are known to prey on sleeper sharks, opah, tuna, and other pelagic fishes. This might be the first documentation of the mammals preying on a sevengill shark.
Offshore killer whales are more common off British Columbia, Canada, but even sightings in that region are rare. The mammals, which are smaller than transients, were first documented off California in 1992, in Monterey Bay.
Interestingly, offshore killer whales were spotted in Monterey Bay last Dec. 12, almost one year to the day before Tuesday's sighting.