If we know one thing about nature, it's that it's not always pretty. This clip from shark researcher Mauricio Hoyos Padilla is proof enough. While working in Mexico, Padilla and his colleagues encountered an injured northern elephant seal, not long after it had been bitten by what he suspects were two very large great white sharks.

This clip is certainly hard to swallow (no pun intended), but the blue waters off Mexico's coastline are a stopover for some of the largest great white sharks in the world – including the famed "Deep Blue" – and these apex predators rely on the seal population here to survive.

The tooth-rake marks and flank injury weren't deep enough to be immediately fatal, but the seal did die of its wounds two days later. "The infection was very strong," Padilla explains. Because elephant seals are protected in Mexico, the team was unable to intervene. "You cannot do anything [in this situation]," he says. "But it's nature."

Indeed. It's an eat-or-be-eaten world.

Predation attempts like this can help us unravel clues about shark hunting strategies, but what the clip also shows is just how resilient these animals are. Female elephant seals can weigh over 1,400 pounds (640 kg) and reach lengths nearing 11 ft (3 m). They might look like lumbering lumps of blubber, but they are no easy prey. They're remarkable divers and pack a serious bite. Because of this, white sharks are far more likely to go for pups than large adults.

The elephant seal breeding cycle begins each December, when the huge males haul out onto beaches to set up their harems, so we can expect to see more encounters like this in the near future. Large numbers of pregnant females soon follow suit, preparing to give birth to the pups they've been carrying for the past seven months.

The mothers remain with their young for nearly 30 days, nursing them on a diet of extremely rich, fatty milk. But shortly after, they will return to the sea to feed, leaving the pups on their own to practice swimming and diving. It's estimated that roughly 70 percent of elephant seal pups survive this period – pretty impressive given what lies beneath the waves. 

Top header image: Coralie Mercier/Flickr