Killer whales may attack boats in retaliation for wounded matriarch: scientists
Killer whales reportedly attacked and sank three boats off the coast of Spain in an apparent revenge that experts fear could be repeated by other whales in their pod.
“The little ones shook the steering wheel from behind, while the big one backed up several times and rammed the ship from the side with all its might,” Werner Schafelberger told German publication Yacht. “Two small killer whales were watching the larger equipment and, having run a little, also crashed into the boat.”
Hundreds of incidents between killer whales and boats off the coast of the Iberian Sea have occurred since May 2020, with all but a few resulting in minor injury or damage. However, the attacks have become more frequent, and some of them have led to the sinking of boats – the last such attack occurred only this month.
This was told by marine biologist Alfredo Lopez Fernandez. living science that the lead whale, a female killer whale that scientists have named White Gladys, experienced a “critical moment of agony,” likely a collision with a boat or entanglement in a fishing line, which made her more aggressive.
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Whales approach the boats from behind, striking them rudder or hull of a boatSailors and other eyewitnesses said.
“This injured killer whale initiated such physical contact with the boat,” Fernandez said.
“We do not interpret that killer whales train their calves, although this behavior has spread to the calves vertically, just by imitation, and then horizontally among them, because they consider it something important in their lives,” he added.
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Fernandez suggested that killer whales may perceive such behavior as “beneficial” despite the risks associated with such brazen attacks. He said that four killer whales from the same subpopulation had died since May 2020.
This behavior may have spread even beyond this population: Recently, a British couple shared their own killer whale attack experience off the coast of Morocco.
Janet Morris and Stephen Bidwell from Cambridge in east England were recently enjoying sailing off the coast of Morocco when they spotted a pod of killer whales.
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The attack continued for an hour as the whales hit the boat several times, but the crew managed to get to calmer waters and to safety. Morris said he was worried they were “sitting ducks”.
“We were remarkably calm, but deep down we were like, ‘Oh my God,'” Morris told British news service SWNS.
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According to Marine Mammal Science, scientists have documented killer whales engaging in aggressive behavior and apparently teaching it to others: in one case, a group of killer whales attacked, killed, and ate blue whales.
Maureen McKee of Fox News Digital contributed to this report.