Strange altruism of humpback whales

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Plazma Inferno!, Aug 4, 2016.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

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    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, namely seals and gray whales.
    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.
    There is also some reason to believe that this altruistic behavior isn't entirely selfless. Mature humpback whales are too large and too formidable to be hunted by orcas themselves, but their calves are vulnerable. Orcas have been witnessed hunting humpback whale calves in much the same way that they hunt gray whale calves. So, by proactively foiling orca hunts, perhaps the humpbacks are hoping to make them think twice about messing with their own calves.
    Then again, maybe it's just as simple as revenge. Even if it has more to do with revenge than altruism, though, the behavior would represent evidence of an intense and complicated emotional life among humpbacks that is unprecedented in the animal world, outside of primates.

    http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/an...globe-are-mysteriously-rescuing-animals-orcas

    The article is a bit popsci, so here's the link to the study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12343/full
     

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