SALT LAKE CITY — Marine scientists were surprised by a friendly visitor last week while filming whales in Antarctica.
What happened: Research scientist Regina Eisert was monitoring the eating habits of Ross Sea orcas from an ice shelf in Antarctica when her camera was suddenly hit by a nosy orca, according to CNN.
- Camera footage taken from a so-called “whale selfie-stick” shows the orca swimming towards the camera from a distance before knocking into it with its nose.
- “It made a beeline for (me), bumped the camera with its nose, opened its mouth and showed me a piece of toothfish inside, as though it was trying to get me to take it,” Eisert told Antarctica New Zealand. “It was really special. The only way I can describe it is like when a cat offers you a mouse.”
Eisert, who had been studying a group of juvenile Ross Sea orcas dubbed “The Gang” in the Ross Sea marine protected area, told Antarctica New Zealand that the footage confirms Sea Ross orcas eat toothfish, the dominant fish predator in the Ross Sea, according to Last Ocean.org.
Ross Sea orcas (or Type-C orcas) are the smallest in their ecotype, with males typically reaching about 20 feet long, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
- They’re usually seen in thick pack ice off eastern Antarctica, and their diet has been previously assumed to consist heavily of Antarctic toothfish.
- Beyond the toothfish, scientists do not have a lot of information about what Ross Sea orcas eat, according to the WDC, which is why monitoring of the whales is ongoing.