Sperm Whales Seen Releasing Torrent of Poop to Ward Off Orca Hunting Party

When you gotta go, you gotta go. And when you have to leave and you're being hunted by orcas... just let it out. Photo: Screenshot//YouTube


Inertia

If you are a human (which is probably true 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 an orca feeds on... well, be careful. But one particular group of sperm whales discovered a pretty bad way to defend themselves: poop.

Sperm whales off the southern coast of Western Australia reportedly showed off their unique defense tactic earlier this year. A marine biologist named Jenny Tucker was on a whale-watching boat when she, along with other whale watchers and photographers, encountered a group of orcas that were clearly hunting.

The possible prey was a pod of sperm whales, one of which was much smaller than the rest. Orcas, like most predators, tend to go after the easiest victims first, usually females and smaller calves. The group of sperm whales seemed tired and were close together when, as Tucker said IFLScience“a large dark bubble rose to the surface among the group, which at the time was believed to be blood.”

Actually, it wasn't blood. Instead, it turned out to be a very large cloud of whale poop.

"Sperm whales are known to defecate when threatened, known as defensive or emergency defection," Tucker explained. “The cloud of diarrhea created when the whale moves its tail through its poop acts to deter predators and, in this case, it seemed to work! Given that its stool appears reddish in color, due to its diet consisting of 90 percent squid, it is not surprising that it is easily mistaken for blood.”

Although it seemed like a face full of poop was a relatively good deterrent, it may not have been as successful as the sperm whales had hoped. The orcas were seen with what was described as "mystery meat" shortly after the encounter, but researchers believe it could have been pieces of giant squid stolen from the sperm whales. Whatever the case, though, it's clear that releasing a cloud of watery, squid-filled feces is a good way to get a hunting orca off your back.


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