Watch: Orcas Hunt Dolphins Off California Coast

Spectacular drone footage shows a pod of orcas working in concert as the adults show the juveniles how to hunt
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video orcas hunting dolphins
A drone filmed the dolphin hunt from above. DolphinDroneDom / via YouTube

Orcas are widely known as some of the best hunters in the ocean, and they work together in packs to target seals, sharks, and other large prey. As seen in this recent YouTube video that was filmed off the coast of San Diego last month, orcas also hunt dolphins.

The roughly four-minute video was recorded with a drone and shared by Domenic Biagini, who runs a whale-watching charter business based in San Diego. It shows a pod of orcas working together to herd and kill common dolphins. The hunt involves both older killer whales and juveniles, with the older whales showing the younger ones the ropes.

At various points throughout the video, you can see the adult killer whales chomping down on individual dolphins. These dolphins appear to have been singled out by the whales, and they’re already hurt or slow-moving by the time they’re eaten. At other times, the adult orcas choose not to finish off the dolphins. Instead, they push the injured dolphins toward the smaller juvenile orcas, allowing them to sharpen their hunting skills.

“During the hunt, the older whales try and teach the young whales how to participate,” Biagini explained in the video description. “So, while this may appear cruel, it is actually a vital teaching and bonding moment for the entire family!”

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Common dolphins are far from the easiest prey in the Pacific. They’re incredibly agile and intelligent compared to other fish and marine mammals. They can also grow up to eight feet long and weigh up to 500 pounds. As the above video shows, however, killer whales are more than capable of outsmarting the dolphins when they work together as a pod. Orcas also dwarf common dolphins in terms of their sheer physical size, measuring up to 25 feet long and weighing 4 to 6 tons.