South African seals appear to be taking their revenge on the local shark population, as divers are reporting that the oceanic mammals are now preying upon some of their former predators.
Fur seals are a staple food source for great white sharks in Africa, a scene many are familiar with, as the Inquisitr has previously reported. Often, a large white shark will strike from below, tossing a helpless seal into the air as it meets its end. Now, however, divers are reporting that some of the seals seem to have turned the tables on the great white’s smaller cousins, oceanic blue sharks.
The shark is my teachers today and I am the seal pic.twitter.com/2c7iUbiHuO
— Alden (@aceatthebeach) March 26, 2015
Marine photographer Chris Fallows, who operates out of Cape Town, South Africa, was the first to report the seals’ strange behavior, which he spotted as early as 2004 while operating a dive boat company. The blue sharks are roughly the same size as the seals, and it is thought that the unusual behavior in South Africa represents the first time that seals have been observed preying upon such large sharks. As the Daily Mail reports, blue sharks are open ocean predators, and can grow to a length of nearly nine feet.
According to Dr Neil Hammerschlaf, a marine biologist who was involved in a recent study of the seals’ behavior, the pinnipeds appear to be devouring the sharks’ innards, which represent the highest nutritional value.
“Seals are generally considered prey of larger sharks, and blue sharks have been observed pursuing juvenile and adult male Cape fur seals, though no kills have been witnessed,” he noted. “There are relatively few reports of pinnipeds (seals) preying on sharks in general and in all cases these involved smaller sharks.”
— Tn Gnzlz (@TinoGonzaleztw) March 26, 2015
While there have been reported instances in which fur seals have assaulted white sharks en masse, that rare behavior is thought to be primarily motivated by the need to protect breeding grounds. Hammerschlaf pointed out that the full scope of the attacks on blue sharks remains unknown, and may represent either opportunistic predation, or a common tactic.
In 2012, Fallows reported observing a large seal as it attacked numerous blue sharks. Over a two-hour-period, the seal assaulted five sharks of various lengths, with the largest measuring just over 4.5 feet.
As the New Scientist points out, some researchers have posited that the seals could be attacking the sharks in order to reduce their competition for other prey in the area. Marine mammal consultant Dominic Tollit also noted that the sharks represent high risk prey for seals when compared to other readily available sources.
[Image: HGMPRESS via the Daily Mail]