"These were not calves: they were huge adult gray whales!"
On Thursday, a Monterey Bay Whale Watch drone captured an incredibly rare — and anxiety-inducing — sight: a pod of 30 killer whales hunting two full-grown gray whales in an epic, five-hour battle.
Though Orcas are much smaller than adult gray whales — the latter clock in at 40 tons and 49 feet in length on average, while the former are about half that size — it's not uncommon for them to prey on gray whale calves.
However, it's far less common for killer whales to attack not just one, but two full-grown grays.
"Usually killer whales will hunt gray whale calves as they head up to their northern feeding areas with their moms," the Facebook caption continued. "But these were not calves: they were huge adult gray whales!"
While it's a shocking display of violence, it's a rare spectacle that could shed light on the hunting behavior of some of the biggest mammals on Earth.
Bruised and Battered
At this point, if you're stressed about the plight of the whales, there's some good news: both of the whales survived, eventually making their way to shallow water, causing the Orcas to break off.
The bad news? According to Insider, Monterey Bay Whale Watch marine biologists suggested that the whales were badly hurt, as blood was visible in the water during parts of the video.
Even so, as they told Insider, the video provides rare insight into the "unique hunting strategies of the pod" as well as the "rarely seen defensive strategies of the two grays."
It could also shed a bit of light on the state of the Monterey Bay food web; when animals are hunting prey that they usually wouldn't hunt otherwise, it's a likely sign that their regular food sources are in short supply.
It's safe to say that most Facebook users weren't on the Orca pod's side.
"Congrats to the grays for standing their ground and holding off that attack," one Facebook commenter wrote, "I'm sure everyone was exhausted!"
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