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Posted on Apr 10, 2013 in Top Shots
Oh No! Are Great White Sharks the Buzzards of the Sea?
by Doug Olander

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Are fearsome great white sharks indeed the most awesome, highest apex predators in the oceans or are they just the biggest buzzards of the sea?

Seems like the answer is both.

A new study has documented scavenging behavior of swarms of great white sharks feasting on whale carcasses off South Africa.

Though this behavior is rarely observed, “we suspect that as white sharks mature, scavenging on whales becomes more prevalent and significant to these species than previously thought.”

So says Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, one of the University of Miami (Florida) scientists who teamed up with Chris Fallows of Apex Shark Expeditions (and a longtime contributor to Sport Fishing). The team documented the behavior in the video below.

Not only does it seem that the larger, older white sharks are emulating vultures and hyenas, but also show a pack mentality, in that they “Clearly showed a size-based pecking order,” Fallows says, with the biggest sharks zooming right in to feast on areas of the whale richest in blubber content, as the smaller guys kept their distance and munched the pieces floating around the feast.

If nothing else, this study tells me if I ever encounter a great white while snorkeling, playing dead may not be the wisest response.