Whale watchers were stunned when they spotted what they believe to be a killer whale swimming in the seas around Britain.
A photographer captured a picture of the rumoured orca – the ocean’s apex predator – and asked local experts their opinion on the sighting.
Some believed its dorsal fin was too small for it to be a killer whale while others said it was too far away to be able to say definitively.
Snapper David Silcock was wandering near Criccieth Bay, Wales, when he spotted the animal in the water not far from the shallows.
Posting the picture on Facebook, he asked: “Is this an Orca in the Bay off Criccieth Beach?”
He told North Wales Live : “I saw it from the viewing point where the cars etc stop off the main road on the hill behind Dylan’s (restaurant) looking towards the castle. I saw it in the bay, towards Black Rock from Dylan’s.
“It was definitely bigger than a dolphin but I was that busy trying to judge when and where it would surface and so I didn’t take as good a look as I could. I drove down from the viewing point and took the photo from the beach in front of Dylan’s.
“It just moved diving and resurfacing from Black Rock and went past the castle.
“I’ve previously seen dolphins and either last year or the year before I saw what I thought were three or four dolphins, these were later confirmed as bottlenose whales.”
One shocked user said: “I was on the beach not long after this was taken and there was a seal camping out on a small rock.
“It didn’t seem to want to get into the water.”
Orcas sit at the top of the food chain, feasting on the likes of fish and squid as well as seals and other whale species larger than themselves.
The giant mammals, which can grow up to 4,000kg, are also the only known predator of another of the ocean’s feared occupants – great white sharks.
On this occasion experts and novices seemed to agree it was more likely to be a dolphin, although they admitted they could not be certain.
Sea Watch Foundation said: “Based on the image we believe it is either a bottlenose dolphin or Risso’s dolphin.”
The sighting comes days after two killer whales were spotted off the coast of Ireland for the second time in the last three months.
The huge creatures were spotted by a conservation group at Bray head off the coast of County Kerry on Thursday.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group confirmed the whales were seen on Valentia Island
It was described as a “rare sighting” after a video of the whales was posted by their social media channels
They are believed to be adult males and visited Ireland from the Hebrides in Scotland.
A Facebook post written by Sightings Officer, Pádraig Whooley, said: “On reviewing the video and images sent to IWDG, we can confirm they are the pair of adult males known as John Coe and Aquarius who are the sole survivors from the Scottish West Coast Community Group, who hail from the Hebrides in Scotland.”