First observations of white sharks attacking a live humpback whale

Published on
29. January 2020

First observations of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) attacking a live humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Sasha Dines, Enrico Gennari


To date, white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) feeding events involving large whales have largely been described only in terms of observed scavenging events. Scavenging occurs in all ecosystems and is usually associated with stochastic feeding events. In marine ecosystems, whale carcasses commonly provide these community-wide food web events. Whale carcasses are the single largest source of carrion in marine ecosystems, to the extent that they are thought to constitute an important part of large white shark foraging ecology, shaping many aspects of the life history of the sharks, including adult migrations. However, to date, no part of this white shark feeding event has been described involving a live whale. To the best of our knowledge, here we provide the first published description of white sharks attacking and killing a live humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). The attack displayed novel behaviours, including evidence of the ‘bite and spit’ tactic, rarely described in non-pinniped-related white shark feeding events before and all part of a tactical timeline of an attack that is precise, deliberate and effective.

Marine and Freshwater Research, Online Early Version, DOI: 10.1071/MF19291


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