It’s common knowledge that killer whales are apex predators, the largest of which is the Orca. But did you know that orcas have been known to prey on sharks? It’s true! Not only do they occasionally eat them but also their livers in particular. This might seem strange because as predatory animals, it goes against everything we know about them as hunters. Immediately, this raises a lot of questions as to why they would do something like this. Are they perhaps not getting enough vitamins or minerals in their usual diet and so need to supplement by eating a special organ like the liver? However, scientists continue to debate and research why Orcas eat shark liver. And we explore some interesting theories about why it may be beneficial for them to do so.
Why Do Orcas Eat Shark Liver?
Shark Tagging Strategy
For a long time, scientists have been interested in studying sharks. Indeed, there are many different shark species that remain a mystery to us. They may use their livers to store large amounts of vitamins and minerals, but they are also very difficult to get to unless you have a special tool that can pierce their armor. One of the best tools for tagging sharks and tracking them is a harpoon, which is attached to a line that gives the scientists control over the shark. But the only way to kill the shark and get to its liver is to somehow get past the skin that is several times thicker than our own. This is where the orcas come in. Orcas have been known to capture and kill sharks for their livers. Not only is it a convenient way of obtaining a large amount of food in one go but also a way to obtain a delicacy that they are not usually used to consuming. Their teeth are sharp and strong enough to break through the tough shark skin and get to their livers.
Being such powerful animals, it is crucial that orcas get the right amount of vitamins and minerals in their diet. They must consume enough of these to keep them healthy and provide them with the energy they need to survive in the wild. In particular, sharks are rich in Vitamin A and D, which are essential for orcas to see and maintain good eye health. Vitamin B12 is also found in high levels in shark liver and is essential for neurological health. These vitamins and minerals are particularly important for orcas because they are found in large quantities in the retina of the eye and are necessary for good vision. They are also important for the nervous system, metabolizing proteins and forming red blood cells. Although orcas do eat a wide variety of fish, the amount of these vitamins in certain species is often not particularly high. Sharks, on the other hand, are a rich source of these vitamins and minerals and are a valuable source of food for orcas.
Orcas May Be Storing Calories
It is also possible that the vitamins and minerals in shark livers are not for orcas’ benefit at all. If a species of animal consumes a large amount of a certain food, there may be a reason for this other than nutrition. Many animals store high amounts of certain minerals and vitamins in their bodies for times when food is scarce. They may do this to ensure that they always have the necessary amount to survive regardless of their surroundings. For example, bears are known for storing large amounts of Vitamin A and B12 during the winter months when food is scarce. Perhaps orcas consume high levels of vitamins and minerals in their diets to store them as a supply of calories for when food is not readily available. Indeed, orcas are sometimes known to fast for days before hunting large marine mammals. The vitamins and minerals in shark livers are vital to orcas and are important in maintaining their health. During times when food is scarce, they can use these stores to ensure they stay strong and healthy despite their lack of nutrition.
Protection Against Toxins
Many of the foods that orcas eat are rich in Vitamin A and B12, which are vital in maintaining eye health. They are also important in detoxifying harmful chemicals and substances found in the ocean. Ciguatoxins, which are natural toxins found in certain tropical reef fish and algae, are harmful to humans and marine life alike. They cause a number of symptoms such as vomiting, stomach spasms, and diarrhea among others. Whilst, not all fish contain these toxins, there is no way to tell when to eat fish from the wild. Whilst Vitamin A and B12 are important for eye health, they are also vital for detoxifying harmful toxins from the body. If the Vitamin A and B12 in the liver of a shark are high enough, it may be able to stop orcas from getting sick after consuming toxic fish.
What Type Of Food Do Orcas Eat?
1. Marine Mammals
Orcas feed on a variety of marine mammals. They have been observed feeding on whales, dolphins, and seals. Orcas are also known to feed on other sea animals such as crustaceans, fish, and shellfish.
2. Fish and Seafood
Orcas have been observed feeding on fish and seafood. They have been known to feed on herring, anchovies, sardines, and other small fish.
Orcas feed on crabs and lobsters.
4. Seals and Walrus
Orcas are also known to feed on seals and walrus. They are known to hunt in packs when hunting these mammals. Orcas have also been known to prey upon beluga whales, which can be a significant source of food for the species.
Seaweed is an important source of food for orcas as it contains many vitamins and minerals that are vital for their health during times when food is scarce. Orcas also eat kelp which is rich in iodine needed for healthy brain function as well as trace elements of iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and selenium which are essential to the human body’s metabolism. These seaweed sources may be vital in providing the necessary amount of nutrition that orcas need during times of scarcity such as hunting large marine mammals or fasting due to a lack of food sources available at the surface or in their environment at all times except during mating season when they travel far away from their usual feeding areas near shorelines where they usually hunt marine mammals such as seals or other sea animals such as fish or crustaceans.
The practice of consuming another animal’s liver is not that common. But it is not unheard of either. Humans, for example, commonly eat pigs’ livers. Now, we know why orcas eat shark livers. It is primarily because of the high amount of vitamins and minerals found in the organs. Not only is the liver an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals for orcas but it is also a convenient and easy way of obtaining a large amount of food in one go. The only problem is that it is often difficult to obtain due to its strong armor. That is why orcas have become such skilled hunters of sharks, which are also rich in minerals and vitamins.