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Humpback whales around the globe are mysteriously rescuing animals from orcas

 
 
Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 01:52 pm
Humpback whales around the globe are mysteriously rescuing animals from orcas
Scientists are baffled at this seemingly altruistic behavior, which seems to be a concerted global effort to foil killer whale hunts.


Quote:
Humans might not be the only creatures that care about the welfare of other animals. Scientists are beginning to recognize a pattern in humpback whale behavior around the world, a seemingly intentional effort to rescue animals that are being hunted by killer whales.

Marine ecologist Robert Pitman observed a particularly dramatic example of this behavior back in 2009, while observing a pod of killer whales hunting a Weddell seal trapped on an ice floe off Antarctica. The orcas were able to successfully knock the seal off the ice, and just as they were closing in for the kill, a magnificent humpback whale suddenly rose up out of the water beneath the seal.

This was no mere accident. In order to better protect the seal, the whale placed it safely on its upturned belly to keep it out of the water. As the seal slipped down the whale's side, the humpback appeared to use its flippers to carefully help the seal back aboard. Finally, when the coast was clear, the seal was able to safely swim off to another, more secure ice floe.

Another event, involving a pair of humpback whales attempting to save a gray whale calf from a hunting pod of orcas after it had become separated from its mother, was captured by BBC filmmakers. You can watch the dramatic footage here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lw8_SAtX8o

Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this behavior is that it's not just a few isolated incidents. Humpback whale rescue teams have been witnessed foiling killer whale hunts from Antarctica to the North Pacific. It's as if humpback whales everywhere are saying to killer whales: pick on someone your own size! It seems to be a global effort; an inherent feature of humpback whale behavior.

After witnessing one of these events himself back in 2009, Pitman was compelled to investigate further. He began collecting accounts of humpback whales interacting with orcas, and found nothing short of 115 documented interactions, reported by 54 different observers between 1951 and 2012. The details of this surprising survey can be found in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

In 89 percent of the recorded incidents, the humpbacks seemed to intervene only as the killer whales began their hunt, or when they were already engaged in a hunt. It seems clear from the data that the humpback whales are choosing to interact with the orcas specifically to interrupt their hunts. Among the animals that have been observed being rescued by humpback whales were California sea lions, ocean sunfish, harbor seals, and gray whales.

So the question is: Why are humpback whales doing this? Since the humpbacks seem to be risking their own well being to save animals of completely different species, it's hard to deny that this behavior seems altruistic.
 
Robert Gentel
 
  0  
Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 01:53 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Here is the video:

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edgarblythe
 
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 02:17 pm
All I know is the longer I live the less superior to the other animals I feel.
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ossobucotemp
 
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 02:31 pm
That news makes me conger up a sense of a sort of balance existing in the animal world - hard to explain since I'm just starting thinking about it and I'm no philosopher or zoologist in the first place. I'm quite astounded, and maybe I shouldn't be.
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snood
 
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 02:36 pm
Fascinating stuff. Pretty dang amazing.
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InfraBlue
 
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 04:24 pm
mark
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Roberta
 
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 04:39 pm
I saw a film of killer whales tormenting their prey. They were using their size and intelligence to be bullies. I'm glad to know that sometimes things even out in nature.
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Blickers
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 07:30 pm
If the humpback whales are able to chase the killer whales away, it looks like killer whales are afraid to attack adult humpback whales, they attack only their young. Very possibly, killer whales go after the young of humpback whales as well as the young of grey whales. As a result there is a natural antipathy in humpback whales to seeing killer whales in the neighborhood, and separating killer whales from their prey is a way of displaying dominance and chasing them off.
snood
 
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 07:35 pm
@Blickers,
I don't think they would, normally. But humpbacks are much larger and it seems that killer whales only pick on animals smaller than them.
Blickers
 
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Reply Fri 12 Aug, 2016 07:47 pm
@snood,
Changed my post, it seems to say much the same thing as you.
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Finn dAbuzz
 
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Reply Mon 15 Aug, 2016 12:59 pm
I would like to see a lot more research before I accept that Humpback whales have collectively decided, only recently, to become a thorn in the sides of Killer Whales.

I'm not suggesting this can't be the case but it certainly seems like a conclusion based on what the researcher would like to believe:

Humpback whales - Noble
Killer Whales - Evil

The idea that Killer Whales (or more accurately, Killer Dolphins) are malevolent is absurd.

The notion that they "torture" their prey is equally absurd. The behavior that leads to such an absurd conclusion is connected to the adults teaching their young how to hunt and kill.

Killing for survival is a perfectly natural behavior that we see throughout the natural world. Apparently, because we credit Orcas with a high degree of intelligence we expect them to forego the behavior and become vegans.

BTW - Humpback Whales are not vegetarians. To survive, each one kills between one to one and one half tons of small fish and krill on a daily basis.
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Mon 15 Aug, 2016 01:59 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
I would like to see a lot more research before I accept that Humpback whales have collectively decided, only recently, to become a thorn in the sides of Killer Whales.


Where do you get the notion that this is a recent "decision"? In any case the link to the data (which is certainly not all recent) is in the article. Here it is: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12343/full
Finn dAbuzz
 
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Reply Mon 15 Aug, 2016 02:32 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Not withstanding "anecdotal evidence" the behavior has only recently been observed scientifically. I don't think many scientists will argue that behavior they see today, necessarily, as been in existence for all of time.

It may be that Humpback Whales have an aquatic hard-on for Orcas and delight in messing with their kills but to jump to this being an altruistic behavior is a stretch.

Roberta
 
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Reply Mon 15 Aug, 2016 05:50 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:



The notion that they "torture" their prey is equally absurd. The behavior that leads to such an absurd conclusion is connected to the adults teaching their young how to hunt and kill.




You're right. My mistake. I saw a video that looked like the orcas were torturing a seal. Further investigation suggests that they were in fact training their young. I shoulda kept my mouth shut.
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Blickers
 
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Reply Mon 15 Aug, 2016 06:27 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
From the study:
Quote:
Humpbacks initiated the majority of interactions (57% vs. 43%; n = 72), although the killer whales were almost exclusively mammal-eating forms (MEKWs, 95%) vs. fish-eaters (5%; n = 108). When MEKWs approached humpbacks (n = 27), they attacked 85% of the time and targeted only calves. When humpbacks approached killer whales (n = 41), 93% were MEKWs, and ≥87% of them were attacking or feeding on prey at the time.


Since Mammal Eating Killer Whales include humpback calves as their prey, it obviously is in the interests of the adult humpback whales to clear them out of the neighborhood. It is conceivable that, intelligent as whales are, that there is some sympathy for the plight of the sea mammal the Killer Whale is going after as well.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Aug, 2016 08:34 am
@Blickers,
It's conceivable however it is more likely, in my opinion, that they are trying to make the area in which they reside a poor hunting ground for the Orcas.

farmerman
 
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Reply Wed 17 Aug, 2016 05:14 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
I think its just the fact tht weve got many many more scientists and cameras out there just filming away. Sooner or later we find anything. I really have no information to verify that Humpbacks are changing their habits and becoming more territorial, maybe were just seeing them more as their ranges change due to greater numbers. Also, Orcas ranges have expanded (thats a fact) so much that we have several large societal pod clusters in the North Atlantic and even the Bay of Fundy. That was a really rare sight 50 years ago

Look at the giant squid, it used to be thing of legend, now, we hqve sitings from deep submersibles yearly.

Like Ehrlich used to say about interacting with subjects. We become one with them.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Aug, 2016 10:17 am
@farmerman,
farmerman wrote:

I think its just the fact tht weve got many many more scientists and cameras out there just filming away. Sooner or later we find anything. I really have no information to verify that Humpbacks are changing their habits and becoming more territorial, maybe were just seeing them more as their ranges change due to greater numbers. Also, Orcas ranges have expanded (thats a fact) so much that we have several large societal pod clusters in the North Atlantic and even the Bay of Fundy. That was a really rare sight 50 years ago

Look at the giant squid, it used to be thing of legend, now, we hqve sitings from deep submersibles yearly.

Like Ehrlich used to say about interacting with subjects. We become one with them.


It may very well be that the whales have been exhibiting this behavior for all of the time they've been around and it may be that is only something that has recently developed.

My point from the start was that I need to see a lot more evidence before I'm going to credit the behavior as altruistic. Doing so, it seems to me, is another example of humans wanting to see in animals what they think they see in themselves.

I think an equally good or better argument can be made that they are trying to make the areas in which they gather unattractive as hunting grounds to the predatory Orcas. Nothing altruistic about that.

I find whales fascinating and tend to believe they have a very high level of intelligence that is quite different from what we have. I'm not ready to write a thesis on this belief, just my opinion based on what I've read.

At the same time Orcas have a very high level of intelligence as well. The different ways they manage to capture prey animals; working in concert, is indicative of this. Anyone who has seen them work together to knock a seal off of an ice flow by creating waves would, I think, agree. So advanced intelligence and bloody killing are not at all mutually exclusive.

However, for a fairly large segment of the population that is always rooting for the rabbit to escape the fox, the zebra to elude the lion, their sympathies for Orcas end at the exit of Sea World.

I was too hard on roberta but the fact that she could interpret some Orca behavior as torture is indicative of the way many humans view animals.

Big sharks are being wiped out of the ocean for doing what they have done for millions of years and without a trace of malice, because humans see them as monsters.

Like it or not, killing is absolutely natural. And the whales so many want to imbue with lofty virtues live by killing far more organisms every day than do Orcas.

The very big difference between animals and humans is that the former far less frequently kills members of their own species than the latter.

I suppose that in some far off future we will be able to survive without killing, but it ain't going to happen any time soon.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Aug, 2016 12:33 pm
Somewhat related

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/07/new-whale-species/?utm_source=NatGeocom&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=inside_20160818&utm_campaign=Content&utm_rd=246549404
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Aug, 2016 07:20 am
@Finn dAbuzz,
I agree with you in theory - it isn't like the orcas are being cruel - they are surviving. But they way the kill their prey as viewed by humans appears cruel and why you get the sympathy for their prey - look at this video of a orca "playing ball" with a turtle.

I first saw this as an item called orca plays ball with turtle --- I don't think the turtle is having a good time.

http://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/other/rare-moment-orca-plays-with-a-turtleor-food/vi-BBvCNgg
 

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