A pod of orcas were seen living up to their ‘killer whale’ moniker after being spotted working together to kill a dolphin they’d been hunting.
The orca attack was caught on camera by a California drone pilot and photographer on September 13, off the coast of Dana Point, California.
The three-minute-long video begins with a flurry of foaming ocean, at the moment when a killer whale catches a dolphin underwater.
A drone pilot captured video of killer whales attacking and killing a dolphin near California
The killer whale then swims below the water’s surface, shaking the dolphin and carrying it a short distance before resurfacing to breathe, at which point viewers get their first look at the significantly smaller dolphin clamped in the orca’s jaw.
The water around the orca and dolphin appears to be a foamy red as the dolphin, which is no longer moving, bleeds from its wounds.
Then, a second orca approaches and the two killer whales almost playfully dive back under water, dragging the dolphin along with them.
When they resurface again, the orcas swim side by side, with one orca handing off the dolphin-carrying responsibilities to the other orca, before their podmates catch up to them.
The drone video footage was captured by Matt Larmand, who was working for Dana Wharf Whale Watching.
The killer whale who caught the dolphin was quickly joined by a second orca
As the orcas toyed with their catch, they were joined by others from their eight-member pod
The company’s owner, Donna Kalez, said that the particular killer whales seen in the video are part of a pod of eight orcas that have been known to kill dolphins in the area, according to Storyful.
‘We have never seen Orcas hunt and kill dolphin like they did this past week, ‘ Kalez told the Dana Point Times.
The orcas in the video are said to be part of what’s known as the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) population of killer whales, which are often seen in the waters off Mexico.
‘ETPs are very rarely encountered and little is known about them,’ California Killer Whale Project researcher Alisa Schulman-Janiger said told the newspaper.
‘They are not part of the three recognized US west coast eco-types of killer whales which include residents, Bigg’s (transients) and offshore orcas.’
A pod of killer whales has also been reported to have been hunting dolphins off the La Jolla, California, coastline in recent days, too,.
The appearance of the killer whales indicates a ‘thriving ocean environment,’ WILD COAST director of conservation, Zach Plopper, told FOX5 San Diego.
Killer whales are said to be the intelligent ocean predators in the world, with the second-largest brains of all marine mammals, after sperm whales.
A 2014 study found that killer whales that had become familiar with bottlenose dolphins had started to imitate the sounds the dolphins made, according to ZME Science.
A grieving killer whale mom made headlines in August after researches spotted her carry her dead calf around for more than two weeks, before eventually letting go of her baby’s carcass and resuming normal behavior.
The killer whale, known as Tahlequah, had carried her dead calf, which had lived just 30 minutes, 1,000 miles through the Pacific Ocean, CNN reported.