Science & Tech

Experts investigate baffling case of orca that swallowed 7 sea otters whole

Experts investigate baffling case of orca that swallowed 7 sea otters whole
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WooGlobe / VideoElephant

Experts have been left baffled after the body of a female orca (Orcinus orca) was found on a beach and inside there were seven sea otters that had been swallowed whole.

The dead animal washed up on the Commander Islands (Komandorski Islands) on the Bering Sea coast in 2020 - far from its typical area, according to the study published in Aquatic Mammals.

But there has been further confusion due to otters not being associated as part of an orca's normal diet, with the species preferring seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales.

Six of the seven otters were inside the orca's stomach while the other one was lodged in the orca's throat, raising a possible answer to how the mammal died.

Dr Olga Filatova, a cetacean researcher at Moscow State University described what they had found as "very unusual" and noted that otters are not associated with an orca's - aka a killer whale's - diet.

The female orca (right) along with the six of the seven otters (right) found in its stomach. Aquatic Mammals Journal

“...killer whales normally do not eat sea otters - there were some observations of them harassing and killing sea otters, but very few proofs of actual consumption," she said.

What's more, the fact that the otters were swallowed whole is also different from how orcas typically consume their food as they normally rip it apart.

Therefore, this particular orca swallowing seven otters whole has raised some eyebrows.

Some possible theories Dr. Filatova has come up with as to understand what happened include the idea that the orca was "very hungry, or sick, or crazy".

Meanwhile, this bizarre case could possibly be the answer to the recorded decline in sea otters in the area.

“Investigating the stomachs of stranded killer whales is crucial to directly confirm feeding on particular species," Dr Filatova and her colleagues concluded.

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