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Sperm whales being hunted by orcas

When you gotta go, you gotta go. And when you gotta go and you’re being hunted by orcas… just let it out. Photo: Screenshot//YouTube

The Inertia

If you’re a human — which you probably are if you’re reading this — you don’t have much to worry about if you see an orca in the wild. But if you’re something that an orca preys on… well, watch out. But one particular group of sperm whales figured out a pretty shitty way to defend itself: poop.

According to reports, sperm whales off the southern coast of Western Australia showed off their unique defense tactic earlier this year. A marine biologist named Jenny Tucker was on a whale watching vessel when she, along with the other whale watchers and photographers, came across a pod of orcas that was clearly on the hunt.

The would-be prey was a pod of sperm whales, one of which was far smaller than the rest. Orcas, like most predators, tend to go after easier victims first, generally smaller females and calves. The group of sperm whales looked tired and were grouped closely together when, as Tucker told IFLScience, “a large dark bubble rose to the surface amongst the huddle, believed at the time to have been blood.”

It was not, in fact, blood. Instead, it turned out to be a very large cloud of whale shit.

“Sperm whales are known to defecate when threatened, referred to as emergency or defensive defection,” Tucker explained. “The cloud of diarrhea created when the whale waves its tail through its poo acts to deter predators and in this case, seemed to work! Given their feces appear reddish in color, due to their diet consisting of 90 percent squid, it’s no surprise it was easily mistaken for blood.”

Although it appeared that a face full of poo was a relatively good deterrent, it may not have been as successful as the sperm whales hoped. The orcas were seen with what was described as “mystery meat” soon after the encounter, but researchers think it might have been chunks of giant squid stolen from the sperm whales. Whatever the case may be, however, it’s clear that releasing a cloud of watery, squid-filled feces is a pretty good way to get a hunting orca off your back.


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