Otters off the coast of South Africa have been caught catching sharks and eating their hearts, livers and male sex organs before discarding the rest of the body.
Over several months a number of shyshark carcases were found by rangers near Simon’s Town in False Bay, South Africa with organs removed , Newsweek reported.
Wildlife trap cameras and photographers captured footage of Cape clawless otters feasting on parts of the 23 inch long shark species, then discarding the rest.
Alison Kock, a marine biologist at South African National Parks, studied the remains of the shyshark carcass and said otters eat ‘the most nutritious parts of the body’.
They were found to have eaten the liver and heart of both male and female shysharks, and the reproductive organs of male sharks.
Wildlife trap cameras and photographers captured footage of Cape clawless otters feasting on parts of the 23 inch long shark species, then discarding the rest. Stock image
Shysharks are one of the most abundant species living in the Table Mountain National Park marine protected area – where the Cape clawless otters also reside.
The shyshark is a species of catfish that lives in temperate waters and are very common – found near the bottom of sandy or rocky habitats.
They feast on crustacians and seagoing worms, but are prey to larger sharks, seals and now – it seems – otters as well.
Dr Kock told Newsweek that when there is an abundance of food, certain predatory species have evolved to cherry pick the most nutritious parts of their prey.
They select parts of the body that can optimise their fitness – as well as otters, bears, seals and killer whales have evolved to do the same thing.
Over several months a number of shyshark carcases were found by rangers near Simon’s Town in False Bay, South Africa with organs removed , Newsweek reported
In False Bay there have been there have been several cases of great white shark carcasses found with their livers missing – in that case it could be killer whales.
Seafari, which monitors marine life in the area, tweeted the video, and joked: ‘Finally some ‘proof’ that celebrity #Killerwhales, Port & Starboard are innocent and not eating False Bay’s #sharks!’
Shysharks, as targeted by the otters, are a relatively small ‘middle tier predator’ that reaches up to about 23 inches in length and feed on worms and crustaceans.
So, while the otter might be to blame for leaving shyshark carcasses – minus key organs – littering the bay, it’s unlikely the 32 inch tall otter could take down a 19ft great white shark.
Trap camera footage captured the otter feasting on parts of the 23 inch shyshark species
Shysharks are one of the most abundant species living in the Table Mountain National Park marine protected area – where the Cape clawless otters also reside. Stock image
Kock and colleagues found that the carcasses of the shyshark had been ‘nibbled’ and discarded near to where the otters are based within the bay.
‘The carcasses were found around an otter den, and the bites were numerous and small in size—and very different to the bites I’ve seen made by killer whales on the sevengill, bronze whaler and white sharks,’ Kock told Newsweek.
‘I noted that lots of ‘nibbling’ took place on the carcasses I examined.’
She said people think of sharks as apex predators, but only tigers, whites, bulls and other big fish are top of the food chain – most sharks are middle predators and prey.
In the case of the shyshark, they are prey to other sharks and to otters and due to their abundance in South Africa, they’ve been meeting a particularly grizzly end.
PUFFADDER SHYSHARK: A SUBSPECIES OF CATFISH THAT ‘CURLS UP’ FOR PROTECTION
The puffadder shyshark is a species of catfish that is endemic to the temperate waters off the coast of South Africa where it is the most abundant species in the area.
They are found near the bottom of sandy and rocky habitats up to a depth of about 430ft and grow to be about 24 inches long.
There is a notable difference between the male and female of the species due to their favoured choice of diet.
Female shyshark prefer to feast on crustaceans so have developed five pointed teeth, the males have a preference for polychaete worms and developed three pointed teeth.
When it is threatened the shark curls up into a circle, covering its eyes with its tail – which is where the shy part of the name comes from – as a way to stop a predator eating it in one go.
They’ve are prey to larger sharks, otters and seals and eat a mixture of worms, crustaceans and small bony fish.