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A ruthless sea otter turned nature on its head by appearing to eat a shark while floating lazily on its back – in what is being hailed as the first documented encounter of its kind.
Husband and wife Don Henderson and Alice Cahill were photographing wildlife in Morro Bay, California, US, on November 10 when they spotted the furry predator swimming backwards holding its oversized snack.
Rather than carrying one of its usual foods of clams or crabs, the Southern sea otter was snapped holding on to a horned shark.
Undeterred by its prey being the same size as itself, the furry predator can be seen putting its teeth into the unfortunate fish’s head while holding it in place with its webbed paws.
In another shot, the shark’s tail is curled up in the air as the otter has hauled the unlucky animal fully out of the water and on to its body.
While Northern sea otters are known to regularly predate on fish in Alaska and Russia, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife believe this is the first documented encounter between the two species.
Spokesperson Michael Harris said: “To my knowledge and a group of colleagues, this is the first documented horn shark capture by a sea otter.
“There are reports of sea otters capturing skates and rays, but this is the first report of a shark. Sea otters will feed on fish, but it’s a very rare observation in California.”
Horn sharks, which live on the seabed, have a similar diet to sea otters and have a powerful bite, but it was not able to defend itself here as the animal was already dead.
Don said: “I was surprised and completely perplexed by what we saw. The shark was dead the whole time we saw it. The otter was swimming around with it, sometimes cradling it and nibbling on it, other times diving below the surface with it.
“Alice and I have been pursuing our passion for wildlife photography for more than 25 years and photographing these sea otters has been an ongoing project since we moved to Southern California in 2008.”