Whales are considered one of the largest animals on this planet. They are carnivorous animals and feed on different marine creatures to survive. They are apex predators in their ecosystem which means they are on the top of the food chain. But do they eat seals? Allow us to explain these questions in this article.
Do Whales Eat Seals?
Despite being the apex predators, whales are not known to eat seals as their common prey. Some species of toothed whales might. Results of some new research have proven that, like dolphins, whales also like social life much like us and prefer to live in groups (pods). So, these goliaths of the ocean live in pods and their natural prey is determined by the location they live in, the availability of different species, and the pods’ hunting strategy.
Interesting Fact: Toothed whales use their teeth to capture and hold prey rather than chew them. Even though seals are carnivorous and predatory animals, toothed whales can frequently prey on them.
Do Baleen Whales Eat Seals?
Baleen whales are toothless whales but often tend to be on the larger side. Their body structure consists of baleen plates instead of teeth. As they do not have teeth, baleen whales do not eat seals.
These whales are filter feeders, which means they consume food and other particles by filtering or straining them from the water. The most important food sources of baleen whales include different varieties of smaller fish, crustaceans, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and algae.
Baleen whales’ food consumption process is very interesting. They travel slowly while consuming big amounts of water and food with their massive mouths wide. After that, they filter the water out with their baleen plates and keep the food that came along with the water in their mouth.
Do Blue Whales Eat Seals?
Blue whales are the largest among the species of whales and yet not known to display much aggression. They do not possess teeth to catch or hold their prey. Instead, they have baleen plates which help them in absorbing plankton and other tiny invertebrates.
Also Read: Do Dolphins Eat Seals?
Do Humpback Whales Eat Seals?
Humpback whales are also baleen whales and don’t have teeth. Yet they have been known to eat birds occasionally.
Humpback whales do not eat seals or any other large creature for that matter. Their primary food consists of different varieties of smaller fish and krill. However, there was a very rare occasion once when a humpback reportedly misjudged a helpless sea lion while attempting to catch a swarm of anchovies. But fortunately enough, the seal escaped successfully and the whale continued to hunt for its natural prey.
Do Gray Whales Eat Seals?
Gray whales, despite being baleen whales, were once called “devil fish” because of their violent behavior and lightning speed. Currently, they are the only living member of the “Eschrichtiidae” family.
Gray whales are opportunistic feeders and mainly prey on amphipod crustaceans, rather than seals. They prefer easy meals and eat what comes their way. They also eat isopods, cetaceans, and plankton among other different things of their diet.
Interesting Fact: Similar to cattle, gray whales are known to graze one part of the water before moving on to another.
Do Killer Whales Eat Seals?
This is one of the common questions that has been asked since killer whales were first discovered. However, the answer is not that simple.
Orcas are sometimes referred to as “Killer Whales”. They are apex predators and carnivores, so they eat other smaller animals in the food chain. For a carnivore to survive, something has to be killed.
Interesting Fact: Referring to Orcas as “Killer Whales” is a misnomer, because they are actually a species of dolphins.
Killer Whales eat seals, along with other different creatures such as fish, squid, birds, and even other whales.
Also Read: Do Dolphins Eat Crabs?
Generally, scientists observe the shape and sharpness of killer whales’ to determine their food habits. So, orcas that have sharp teeth, can deduce that it is more likely to have eaten larger aquatic animals including seals. On the other hand, the orcas with blunt and worn-out teeth, are more likely to have spent their life preying on little fish. For instance, the Iberian orca mainly eats tunny fish (tuna).
Orcas (killer whales) live in family groups called “pods”. Different pods have different staple foods and some pods even eat whales, hence the name given by Spanish whalers to those orcas which were their rivals “whale killers”.
How Do Killer Whales Hunt Seals?
Killer Whales, also known as Orcas are a type of dolphin species and are one of the most common and probably biggest predators of seals. They are capable of hunting and eating many larger aquatic animals including seals.
Killer whales frequently create large waves in order to wash seals off the sea ice, so that they can catch them easily off guard. But sometimes, they also come ashore on the beach to hunt these seals. As Orcas tend to hunt in pods (groups), this trait allows them to catch prey that is much larger than typical whale prey.
Interesting Fact: Killer Whales are so dangerous that they are the only species that have been documented to hunt great white sharks.
Do Killer Whales (Orcas) Eat Leopard Seals?
Leopard seals are one of the predatory Antarctic seal species and are notorious for their penguin predation in Antarctica. But they also have larger predators that hunt them, as part of the food chain and ecosystem.
Leopard seals are known to be eaten by killer whales (orcas). Although, leopard seals’ habitat is very limited to human contact and not much of them is known, there are a couple of documentations in the literature regarding killer whales preying on leopard seals dating back to 1977 and 1980.
Because of their surprise assault ability, orcas have the advantage of catching and eating leopard seals. But we cannot say whether they regularly hunt leopard seals or not as their habitat is far away from our accessibility.
Do Killer Whales Eat Elephant Seals? Elephant Seal Vs Orca
Killer whales probably eat elephant seals too as they can accommodate enough meat and a fuller meal. Killer whales are known to exhibit a unique affinity for elephant seals because of this reason.
According to the volunteer researchers team led by Monika Wieland Shields of the “Orca Behavior Institute” estimated that transient orcas consumed around 1,090 seals in the Salish Sea in 2017. This means it is more than 2% of the estimated harbor seal population of 51,000 in the Strait of Georgia and Washington’s inland waters. (1)
Also, as per the results of another previous research, orcas ate a third to almost half of the 1500 harbor seals in Hood Canal in just 53 days in 2003.
Do Beluga Whales Eat Seals?
Beluga whales, yet another species of toothed whales, are fascinating creatures that roam around Arctic and subarctic waters. They live in areas where northern hemisphere seals can be found, but still, they are not known to go after larger creatures. Belugas prefer small marine fish and crustaceans to seals as they do not fight back.
So, we can say that it is not uncommon to witness beluga whales and seals together. Moreover, they may even feed on the same prey but still, belugas don’t eat seals in most cases.
The two main reasons belugas don’t hunt seals are their slower swimming speed and their propensity to graze along the bottom.
Do Minke Whales Eat Seals?
Minke whales are also members of the baleen group. So, as we already discussed, they have baleens on each side of their mouths instead of teeth. They do not eat seals but prefer eating smaller fish, plankton, and crustaceans.