It’s a beautiful day to appreciate not being orcas’ prey.
It’s no news that orcas are expert assassins (they’re dubbed “killer whales” for a reason), but a scene from the recently released Frozen Planet II serves as a chilling reminder of their abilities. A synchronized pod can be seen in it targeting a seal who seemed to have felt they were secure sleeping on a massive block of ice. However, it appears that few sites are safe when Orcinus orca groups are engaged.
A pod of orcas lives in a never-ending cycle of hunting and eating. When they’re looking for food, they’ll swim about “spy-hopping,” which is when they bob out of the water to see what’s going on on land.
The advanced searching strategy allows them to detect seals that are in a good position to become food, but it’s calorie-dense job. This implies that hunting pods of orcas must locate a lot of food to keep everyone in the group filled up so that they may go in search of more food, and that’s before mating or calf-rearing.
As a result, once a seal is in the sights of an orca pod, they are not likely to give up easy. Something that Sir David Attenborough and the BBC Natural History Unit illustrate in beautiful 4K UHD in their new film, Frozen Planet II.
When two orcas spot a seal, the scouts call in reinforcements with vocalizations. Way pulls the gang together for a concerted attack, recalling sequences of velociraptors pack-hunting for pterosaurs in Prehistoric Planet (though others claim we don’t know for sure if they truly hunted like this).
The seal stuck in the orcas’ sights seemed unfazed, and who could blame it, resting on such a massive sheet of ice? But not for long.
The orcas collaborate to create a subsurface wave that shatters the seal’s big frozen safety float. The orca have a far higher chance of knocking the seal into the ocean and getting a meal by cracking the ice into tiny pieces like this.
In ominous moments, the mother spy is seen bouncing just meters away from the seal. Following her example, the pod pushes their target and its safety raft out to clearer seas, where they have a clear shot at wave-washing the seal and sending it skidding into the water.
They then use bubbles to disorient the hapless pinniped, allowing them to safely take it down. The attack’s sophistication is exceptional not only for wildlife in general, but also for orcas, with only 100 of these creatures known to use these methods in the wild.
An extraordinary adaptation to survive in a world where prey is scarce, and one that makes you glad you weren’t born a seal.