News World Turning the tables: killer seals feast on sharks

Turning the tables: killer seals feast on sharks

seal eating shark
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The term “shark attack” has been given new meaning, with a just-published study revealing fur seals have a particular penchant for shark guts.

Published in the African Journal of Marine Science, the study reports on the discoveries of Cape Town dive-boat operator Chris Fallows, who in 2012 was underwater photographing 10 blue sharks when he saw a young male Cape fur seal hunt and kill five of the sharks, scoffing only their internal organs.

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A decade earlier, he also witnessed a young Cape fur seal chasing, tossing and eventually killing a blue shark. The seal proceeded to eat only the shark’s guts, the most energy-rich part of a sharks’ body.

Seals and blue sharks, which are roughly the same size, usually prey on much smaller fish, squid and other marine life. Several species of seal are also known to feed on smaller sharks, and blue sharks have been seen pursuing – but not catching – fur seals.

Fallows’s observations are the first time anyone has seen seals preying on such large sharks.

While no one knows how common it is for seals to chow down sharks for dinner, the report’s authors say seals could be altering ocean food chains in unexpected ways, especially with seal populations booming throughout the oceans.

Photo courtesy of Chris Fallows.

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