By Nelson Groom
This gruesome carcass which washed up on a South African beach baffled experts – until scientists miraculously solved the mystery.
The fanged, freshly disemboweled body was found washed ashore on a beach near Pelican Point, Walvis Bay, Namibia, earlier this month.
Authorities contacted a marine biology team to identify the creature, but by the time they reached the scene it the body had been swept back into the ocean.
But in an incredible twist, the same scientists had unwittingly captured an ultra-rare feeding frenzy just one day earlier which held the key to solving the mystery.
The team, known as Namibian Dolphin Project (NDP), were investigating an oil spill when they caught two killer whales mauling a dolphin on camera – footage which would later identify the animal’s remains.
NDP Director Dr Simon Elwen said: “The heavily mutilated, freshly dead carcass was reported on a nearby beach through the local strandings network.
“I’ve never seen as dolphin carcass like that in 20 years of research.
“The NDP responded to the call but the carcass could not be found and is thought to have washed out to sea.
“But I have only ever seen animals ‘peeled’ of their blubber and with their organs pulled out being caused by killer whales.
“So there’s every indication the carcass belonged to the adult Heaviside’s dolphin attacked in our footage from the day before.”
Footage filmed by Dr Elwen’s team the day before shows a killer whale breaching the surface of the ocean with the dolphin locked in its jaws while the other circles nearby.
Killer whales hunt in packs, attacking their prey from multiple directions to keep their prey from escaping.
The rare sighting was the first time the group had witnessed killer whales in those waters in 600 trips.
Dr Elwen said: “The team was monitoring the effects of a small local oil spill, when the distinctive large dorsal fin of a killer whale was seen just offshore.
“This is a one-in-a-lifetime event with highly valuable data, so the team mobilised immediately.
“After about an hour they spotted a very quick rush at the surface back and forth. The larger killer whale lifted his body out of the water and revealed an adult sized Heaviside’s dolphin in his mouth.
“We could see that the Heaviside’s dolphin was bleeding but there was no further struggle and the killer whales dove underwater with their prey.”