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Saltwater Croc Caught On Film Feasting On A Whale For The First Time

It's thought to be the first documented case of a reptile eating a whale. Gekko Gallery/Shutterstock 

Love them or hate them, drones allow us humans to witness a lot of things we were never privy to previously, such as how animals interact when they aren’t distracted by our presence.

A most excellent example is the footage below, recorded late last year and shared recently by National Geographic, showing two 3-meter-long (10-foot) tiger sharks and one 4-meter-long (13-foot) saltwater crocodile munching side-by-side on a humpback whale carcass.

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Incredibly, this is thought to be the first time ever that a reptile has been recorded feasting on a whale. 


The surprisingly polite spectacle was spotted off the coast of Kimberly, in Western Australia, by the crew of a charter boat, who conveniently already had a drone onboard.

The resulting video was posted to social media, and soon after, noted by University of Miami shark biologist Austin Gallagher.

His analysis of the crocodile-shark scavenging behavior was published online last month in the Journal of Ethology.

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"The most interesting aspect of this observation was seeing the overlap in time and space between tiger sharks and saltwater crocodiles, two apex predators that rarely encounter each other," Gallagher told NatGeo.

Both species are known to be opportunistic scavengers, and massive whale carcasses, containing tons of edible flesh, are known to attract a wide range of hungry animals. Tiger sharks, essentially the dumpster divers of the sea, have been documented nibbling on pretty much every edible thing that they encounter, plus many non-edible objects they try anyway. The species appears to prefer the deeper waters that edge reefs in tropical and subtropical regions, though they will come closer to the shore in search of food.

The crocs, on the other hand, typically stick to the brackish waters of estuaries, lagoons, river deltas, and mangrove forests, though, true to their name, they are able to withstand the full salinity of saltwater. 

Similar to previous sightings of multiple individuals from multiple species feeding on a kill, Gallagher theorizes that the abundance of available food made the two top predators disinclined to fight. After all, why expend unnecessary energy? 

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Novelty aside, the clip and its resulting peer-reviewed journal article remind us that video documentation, regardless of who or what takes it, can lead to valuable scientific insights that simply can’t be gathered with binoculars and a notebook.

From counting penguins in massive colonies to spying on poachers to following elusive snow leopards, unmanned aircraft are increasingly being put to work for the study and conservation of wildlife.


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