Senior Editor

You probably have a soft spot somewhere in your hardened heart for otters. They’re fuzzy little floating creatures, holding hands with each other as they sleep on their backs, cracking things open with their tiny little paws, looking at you with those soft, curious eyes. But otters, you little otter lover you, have you tricked. They’ve pulled the wool over your eyes. Otters aren’t who you think they are. Oh, they’re cute alright. But otters are rancid-smelling,  necrophiliac, baby seal rapists with an affinity for shark livers, hearts, and reproductive organs.


Rangers in Simon’s Town, South Africa, have been baffled for the last few months. Dead sharks were washing up on their beaches with a few of their organs almost surgically removed. The sharks in questions aren’t great whites — which are famously busy in this particular part of South Africa — but shysharks, a type of catshark that is decidedly less frightening than a great white, or any other kind of shark, for that matter. They get their name because when they’re threatened, the shark curls into a circle and covers its eyes with its tail, which is just about the least sharky behavior a shark can do.

Hearts, livers, and reproductive organs might sound like particularly serial killer-ish parts for the otter to go after, but they’re actually full of nutrients. And since otters are basically little watery serial killers, it makes perfect sense. Still, though, when researchers in Simon’s Town finally saw footage of otters feasting on the organs of sharks, they were surprised.

Killer whales have also been known to practice this type of selective feeding in and around False Bay, but they do it to great white sharks and sevengill sharks. Shysharks, luckily, aren’t in short supply, so South African otters don’t pose much danger to the survival of the species.

Learn how to minimize chances of an adverse shark encounter as well as critical information about shark behavior, shark personalities, shark language, what to do in the unlikely event a shark bites you, and more in 20-plus video lessons in Ocean Ramsey’s Guide to Sharks and Safety.


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