Animal news: The score is orca pod 4, boats 0

So the Times tells me today. And I learned some things. For one, orcas are members of the dolphin family. And, like dolphins, they are playful:

The largest of the dolphin family, orcas are playful apex predators that hunt sharks, whales and other prey but are generally amiable to humans in the wild. The orcas hunting in the Strait of Gibraltar are considered to be endangered, and researchers have noticed an upsurge of unusual behavior since 2020: A small group of the marine animals have been battering boats in the busy routes around Portugal, Spain and Morocco.

So, although some of the more belligerent among us would like to believe the orcas are fighting back against human depredations, it’s possible — and this is pretty enchanting, so I bolded it..

“Orcas are complex, intelligent, highly social,” Erich Hoyt, a research fellow at Whale and Dolphin Conservation and author of “Orca: The Whale Called Killer,” said. “We’re still at the early stages of trying to understand this behavior.”

Researchers have pushed back at the idea that orcas are attacking vessels. Instead, they theorize that the rudders of boats have become a plaything for curious young orcas and that the behavior has become a learned fad spreading through the population. Another hypothesis, according to biologists who published a study on the population last June, is that the ramming is an “adverse behavior” because of a bad experience between an orca and a boat — though researchers tend to favor the first.

Anyhow, if one orca had a bad experience, how did he/she communicate this to pal pods and organize mass adverse behavior against boats? Ooh, how I’d love to be a whelk on the rock wall of the cove where the orcas gathered to report in and make plans!

Either way, you’ve got to love orcas.



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