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Nature & Environment

Scientists may finally know why orcas keep ramming into boats

By T.K. Randall
June 3, 2024 · Comment icon 51 comments

Orcas are still causing a lot of damage. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Christopher Michel
The unexplained behavior has resulted in more than 700 cases of killer whales attacking and damaging boats.
The seaborne mammals were first observed deliberately ramming boats back in 2020 and since then it seems to have spread far and wide, with prominent incidents being reported last year in the waters off Spain and Portugal.

Experts believe that this behavior may have started with an adult female named White Gladis who survived some sort of traumatic event such as being injured by a collision with a boat.

Younger orcas then started to copy her and the trend spread among the population.

Now, according to leading marine biologist Alex Zerbini of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the most likely explanation for the continued attacks is that young orcas may simply be mimicking the behavior as a form of "cultural tradition".
Essentially, ramming into boats has become something of a fad for them.

"Different populations often have distinct dietary specializations maintained by cultural transmission, and these 'ecotypes' typically have a variety of persistent behavioral traditions related to their divergent foraging," Zerbini and colleagues wrote in a new study into the phenomenon.

"Some populations may also develop unusual and temporary behavioral 'fads' and other idiosyncrasies that do not appear to serve any obvious adaptive purpose."

As with other fads observed in orcas, it is possible that this one will simply die out after a while.

Exactly how long that might take to happen, however, remains unclear.

Source: Independent | Comments (51)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #42 Posted by openozy 4 days ago
That is true and freedom with everything is very important to me. People need to be educated in the knowing that the planet can only support so many people for it to be a world worth living in. In reality I do think it's a pipe dream and that people are stupid, greedy and selfish and can't see or don't care about the future because they won't be there. If we are that intelligent we should know better.
Comment icon #43 Posted by joc 4 days ago
How many people can the planet support?  11 billion?  13 billion?  20 billion?  And what actually is a world worth living in?  
Comment icon #44 Posted by openozy 4 days ago
Less than half what it is now so 2 to 3 billion. A world where there is enough resources and pristine wilderness for all creatures.
Comment icon #45 Posted by joc 4 days ago
 There are currently 8 billion humans on Earth.  Your perspective on what actually is a world worth living in is one of 8 billion perspectives.  So, if we could eliminate half of the population of the Earth by killing everyone in India and in China.  We could then redistribute the Palestinians and the Ukrainians and all of the Haitians, The Congo, and Oklahoma and Louisiana populations to live in those two countries.   I like reality.  Reality is that 8 billion people live on Earth.  I don't care what any of those 8 billion people do or don't do as long as it is within the confines of... [More]
Comment icon #46 Posted by openozy 4 days ago
I'm not saying eliminate anyone, just slow the population. You may not like certain creatures but they all are an important part of the system and removing them will have a chain effect. Not singling you out but your attitude is typical and shows that most don't care about anything other than themselves, to the detriment of earth. Sorry joc but people will have to try to survive long after you are gone and I happen to care about that.
Comment icon #47 Posted by Abramelin 4 days ago
Comment icon #48 Posted by joc 3 days ago
Thanks for sharing.  Very informative and explains a lot.  
Comment icon #49 Posted by joc 3 days ago
What I find interesting is the contrast between the family aspect.  That is an evolutionary trait and somehow, individualism for survival must have played more of a role in the human evolution.
Comment icon #50 Posted by Abramelin 3 days ago
The video also mentions transient orcas. They live alone or in very small groups consisting of only a couple of individuals, and travel great distances.
Comment icon #51 Posted by joc 3 days ago
Yes.  Perhaps on their way to evolving into their own species. I have also read that Orcas from time to time do attack each other, but nothing like what humans do.

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