Participants on a Lindblad expedition in the Grandidier Channel, Antarctica, witnessed an amazing scene: in a brutal and synchronized attack, a pod of orcas attacked a seal, trying to get it into the water, where they could devour it.

Killer whales are some of the largest predators on Earth, and they’re also some of the smartest. Here, they start off with a hunting technique called wave washing. Basically, they move in unison, creating a wave that rocks the ice in an attempt to knock the seal off the ice. Barely, the seal manages to cling on to the ice, where it is safe. When that fails, they change strategy. With ravaging strength, the orcas try breaking up the ice with their bodies.

After two hours, the orcas finally manage to destroy the ice completely, but the nimble seal managed to retreat to a different piece of ice before finally escaping once and for all.

Image credits: National Geographic / Expeditions

Crabeater seals (Lobodon carcinophaga) are by far the most abundant seal species in the world. They are uniquely adapted to the aquatic, polar environment, and feature specialized lobed teeth adapted to filtering their small crustacean prey. Despite their name, they don’t eat crabs. Curiously, crabeater seals have been known to wander further inland than any other seal, being found as far as 100 km from the water and over 1000 m above sea level, where the cold dry air can mummify them for centuries.

The killer whale, or orca (Orcinus orca), weighs up to 11 tons, hits a top speed of 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour, and has razor-sharp teeth ready to tear through any prey it comes across in the ocean. Aside from these impressive physical qualities, it also boasts one of the largest and most capable brains in the animal kingdom. Killer whales have been observed imitating other species and seem to deliberately teach skills to their kin. People who have studied them in the wild often report stories of their curiosity, playfulness, and intelligence. Alaskan killer whales have not only learned how to steal fish from longlines but have also managed to easily overcome the techniques meant to stop them.

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Unfortunately, these characteristics have made them a popular exhibit at aquaria and aquatic theme parks, something which biologists and activists are trying to stop. Killer whales are apex predators, they have no known enemies (other than humans, potentially). They typically hunt in packs, like wolves, and can feast on fish, cephalopods, mammals, seabirds and sea turtles. They belong in the sea, not in aquariums.

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