Drone footage captures four sharks and a crocodile 'binging' on dead whale carcass

Four sharks and a saltwater crocodile went on a feeding frenzy about a mile off the coast of Western Australia.


                            Drone footage captures four sharks and a crocodile 'binging' on dead whale carcass
(Source: Getty Images)

In a rare event that was fortunately caught on tape, a 13-foot saltwater crocodile and several sharks 'binged' on a dead whale carcass about a mile off the coast of Western Australia.

The drone footage shows predators going on a feeding frenzy with a 16-foot long humpback whale carcass that was floating off Montgomery Reef near a sandbar. This is the first time that sharks have been recorded feeding on the same carcass together with a crocodile, reported Fox News.

The CEO and chief scientist at Beneath the Waves, Dr. Austin Gallagher, said that he had been studying the behavior of sharks for over a decade but this was the first time he saw anything like this. Beneath the Waves is a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. which is working to protect the world's oceans.

"It's very rare to actually see these two groups of animals overlapping," Gallagher told Fox News on Thursday.

The video was posted by an Australian charter company on Facebook back in September last year and was spotted by the shark expert after. In the past, Gallagher has studied the scavenging of whales, which he deems an "important part of the ecosystem," and this footage prompted him to do some research.

When he contacted the charter form to get further details about their encounter with the phenomenon, he recruited two more colleagues to help with his investigation. The "Journal of Ethology" contains a paper in which researchers wrote about their observations from the said probe.

"Sharks are a difficult group of organisms to study. They move around quite a bit, they're large, they're dangerous to work with and the concealing nature of the ocean environment makes studying them really challenging," Gallagher said. "But sometimes these really unique instances occur — and we learn a lot of information in a short period of time."

Predators have a "renowned" sense of smell, and a rotting whale carcass which creates a huge pulse of odors and fumes can bring in animals from hundreds of miles away in search of food. "Up to 40 great whites have been seen at once on one carcass," Gallagher said.

Although in the video there were only four tiger sharks and one 13-foot crocodile visible, feasting on the whale, there are hundreds of teeth marks on the whale's body that suggest that there were many more predators trying to grab their share.

Gallagher says that due to Australia's "dramatic tidal cycles", the whale was swept close to the shore, bringing it near the range of the croc, which apparently traveled more than 3,200 feet to reach the whale. 

"Every minute is life or death for animals in the wild, something we forget as humans. So to see croc get out there and get into the mix is pretty impressive," Gallagher added. "It shows how valuable free food is to a top predator."

He also said that there is a peculiar behavior exhibited by sharks when it comes scavenging. While all the sharks get a chance to eat, there is occasionally a pecking order of who goes first based on their respective sizes.

"They usually play nice with one another. There's enough food to go around and a lightbulb goes off, 'It's good for me, it's good for everybody — let's just do this,'" Gallagher said.

But one of the sharks did not take it well when the crocodile encroached on their meal, the scientist says.

"A tiger shark made brief contact with the crocodile, appearing to splash the water with its tail, likely in an effort to deter the crocodile from the region," the study reads. "After this interaction, the shark quickly abandoned the region, after which the crocodile buried its head into the cavity of the whale, presumably in an effort to find more desirable pieces of flesh."

The crocodile seemed relatively unfazed by the shark's play and continued to eat parts of flesh in the pectoral fin of the carcass. However, if there was a bout between the shark and the croc, it is unclear who would have won.

"It's impossible to know who would win in that battle for sure. I would say that would be a fight that a shark wouldn't want to engage with ... a croc has pretty tough skin," Gallagher said.

Gallagher reaffirmed that it was important to study the behaviors of top predators. He said that although in this case, there were no protective measures to be learned, he hopes that it will incite a thirst for the unknown in the general public.

"These are apex predators, and as impressive and incredible as they are, our top predators are in trouble and they're threatened," he warned. "They're experiencing declines worldwide. It's my hope that these fascinating reports can inspire people to want to become advocates for their protection."