When prey becomes predator: A sea lion tears a shark apart

Category: Eyewitness, PEGI 16
18 November 2023
We are accustomed to considering the shark as the main predator of the sea. Therefore, a video in which a sea lion attacks a shark and rips its throat out seems something unusual and interesting. Yes, the spectacle is quite bloody.

The short video shows a sea lion throwing a small shark out of the water and tearing off part of its jaw before swallowing it.

The video was shot by a marine photographer in California's Monterey Bay last October. California's coastal sea lions most often feed on small fish such as sardines. However, according to experts, violent fights between sea lions and sharks are not something out of the ordinary.

“Sharks are definitely on the menu for sea lions,” says a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Care Center, a nonprofit organization that protects marine mammals. “But I would definitely say it’s interesting to see a sea lion with a blue shark that size.” It's always interesting to see a sea lion eat something larger than its normal diet."

So sea lions often act as predators for sharks. However, they pose a much lesser threat than humans. The blue shark's most dangerous predator is shark finning poachers. They cut off the fins and throw the corpses of the sharks back into the sea.

According to the Shark Trust, blue sharks are the most heavily fished on the planet. This species is listed as “nearly endangered” in the Red Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“There used to be a lot more blue sharks,” says Dave Bader, director of the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, California. — Blue sharks are a common sight in these waters. But they are one of the species whose numbers have been greatly reduced by the fin fishery.”

Large sea lions bring large prey to the surface because it's easier to swing and take a bite out of the open air, Bader said.

“Here at the Marine Mammal Care Center we feed them herring,” he says. “And, basically, sea lions here feed on small fish - sardines, anchovies, mackerel. However, large male sea lions feed on salmon, stingray and large halibut. The behavior when they come to the surface and you see him waving the shark in the air is because he can't swallow it whole. In this video, it is strange that the shark did not swim away from the sea lion, because it swims faster and dives deeper. But somehow he was able to catch her.”

While the large blue shark is a worthy opponent for an adult sea lion, many other shark species are more vulnerable prey. The length of most of them does not exceed one meter, and 80 percent are no more than 1.8 m. So only a fairly small percentage of sharks reach large sizes, and an even smaller percentage of them pose any danger to humans.

“We tend to think of sharks as large and dangerous creatures. After all, they are predators, not prey,” says Bader. “But most shark species are prey.”
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