We've seen them launch ambush attacks and even torpedo into the surf to grab a meal, but one of the orcas' most impressive hunting tricks involves punting prey right out of the water.  

Turtle Orca Gif 2016 08 15

The hapless creature sailing through the air is a green turtle, caught on camera by a boatful of surprised tourists near Isla Fernandina in the Galápagos in late May.

"Spotting orcas in the Galapagos is quite rare, but what these passengers aboard the M/V Evolution got to witness is once-in-a-lifetime!" writes the team from Quasar Expeditions on Facebook.

It's possible that the killer whale didn't really have dinner in mind and was merely toying with its target, but orcas often rely on such high-speed strikes to stun and dispatch larger prey like dolphins and seals. Turtles, however, are not usually on the menu – and green turtles, among the largest sea turtles on the planet, are not exactly easy pickings. 

Still, orcas are apex predators who eat everything from octopuses and birds to juvenile gray whales, and in some parts of the world, shelled reptiles are certainly up for grabs. Off the coast of California and Namibia, for example, killer whales have been observed harassing and feeding on leatherback turtles.

"The [orcas'] teeth are designed for grasping not shearing or crushing so my guess is that they try to extract the turtle from the underside rather than break through the shell," suggests Ari Friedlander, a whale specialist from Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute, in a post over at Traveller.com.au.

Watch the full clip of the Galápagos encounter here:  


Top header image: Alexandre Bourdeu, Flickr