On their own, orcas are imposing enough beings in the water — there is, after all, a reason that they’re known as killer whales. Now, a phenomenon appears to be surfacing that could make you rethink your estimates of orcas’ intelligence — and chill you to the bone. It might not be quite as alarming as a certain The Onion headline about dolphins evolving opposable thumbs, but it certainly qualifies as worrying news about cetaceans.
This news comes via Insider, in an article that reveals that orcas have sunk three sailboats to date off the coast of Spain. Their reporting cites comments made by ship captain Werner Schaufelberger in an article for Yacht. “The attacks were brutal. There were two smaller and one larger orca,” Schaufelberger said. “The two little ones shook the rudder while the big one kept running and then rammed the ship from the side with full force.”
File under: the stuff of nautical nightmares.
As Sascha Pare recounted in a LiveScience article, experts are confounded by why this is happening. One theory is that a traumatized orca has demonstrated this method of attacking boats to other orcas. Think peer pressure, but with massive aquatic predators opting to re-enact the ending of Moby-Dick.
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Alfredo López Fernandez, a biologist and expert in orcas, stressed that this was not normal behavior for the species. “The orcas are doing this on purpose, of course, we don’t know the origin or the motivation, but defensive behavior based on trauma, as the origin of all this, gains more strength for us every day,” he told LiveScience.
What’s unclear at present is whether the three boats attacked to date will be the sum total of this phenomenon, or if it will continue — heightening tension on humans and orcas alike.
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