Dwarf Sperm Whale Ejects Ink Like a Squid As It Flees Aggressive Seal, Extremely Rare Video Shows

Video footage has shown an injured dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima) releasing a jet of dark red ink as it attempts to flee from an aggressive sea.

The scene was filmed in Hout Bay Harbour in Cape Town, South Africa, and shared by SA People News, which reported the whale was so badly injured authorities had to have it euthanized.

In the video, the dolphin-sized whale is spotted racing towards the shore with the Cape fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus) in tow, before releasing a burst of rust-colored liquid.

Gregg Oelofse, the manager of the City of Cape Town Coastal Management team, said dwarf sperm whales become disoriented when they enter shallow waters less than 20 meters (65 feet) deep.

"It was best described to me like a human being in the pitch black being in a cricket ground and all the floodlights get turned on and off," he said. "You panic and run in all directions.

"The dwarf sperm whale was similarly distressed and panicked and had become highly stressed and with the seal chasing it swam up onto the rocks and had beached and hurt itself."

Like squid and octopuses, dwarf sperm whales can produce a dark, ink-like substance to confuse, and even blind, potential predators and other threats—such as the seal in this instance.

This reddish-brown liquid is stored in a sac in the whale's intestine and can be released in large quantities. According to Save the Whales, the dwarf sperm whale and its close relative the pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) can eject up to 12 liters of the inky substance, producing a dense cloud to act as a diversion tactic. This disorientates attackers and offers the cetacean a chance to escape.

According to NOAA Fisheries, relatively little is known about this elusive species as they are rarely observed. Dwarf sperm whales avoid the planes and shipping vessels scientists use to monitor marine life and tend to avoid approaching the water's surface unless sea and weather conditions are very calm.

However, we do know they can be found in temperate and subtropical waters worldwide, including the areas off the coast of California and South Africa. According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, dwarf sperm whales are slow-moving creatures found in groups of 10 or fewer. They can sometimes be seen lying still on the water's surface, basking in the sun's light.

Measuring less than 9 feet, dwarf sperm whales are the smallest known species of whale in the world.

Cape fur seal
Stock image of a cape fur seal. A dwarf sperm whale was filmed ejecting an ink-like liquid to escape an aggressive seal. ELizabethHoffmann/iStock