Konishi’s theory strikes a chord with orca experts such as Ken Balcomb, senior scientist with the nonprofit Center for Whale Research outside Seattle, Washington. Balcomb has been studying orcas for 43 years. He has seen firsthand the myriad clever methods they employ to hunt different prey.
“They pummel their prey quite a bit. They will throw their body against a gray whale. They’ll ram great white sharks, too,” Balcomb said.
But Balcomb said they’re choosy about what and how they attack, often using their flukes or whole body rather than their heads. They even distinguish between different types of prey.
“They know which kinds of seals will fight back,” Balcomb said. “So they’re cautious. They don’t want to get hurt.”
Contributing to Konishi’s study were Paulina Jiménez-Huidobro and Michael Caldwell, both of the University of Alberta. The study was funded in part by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Konishi said this better understanding of the development of baby mosasaurs could help scientists learn more about fossils of other baby dinosaurs and marine reptiles that look markedly different from their parents.
“We now have a bit better insight into how this trademark feature evolved in this lineage,” he said. “It’s a good starting point for more studies in the future.”