Mexico City.- At least three ships have been attacked and sunk by a group of about 15 orcas in the Iberian Peninsula since May 2020. According to scientists, the unusual behavior remains unexplained.
More recent events occurred on the night of the 4th of May in the strait of Gaditano on the coast of Spain: some specimens were on board the ship, others were commanded by the helmsman.
The next morning the vehicle sank and the four men were rescued in boats by the Spanish authorities.
Why are they attacking the ships?
So far, the only speculations about this killer whale performance, according to Luke Rendell, a specialist in marine mammal learning, behavior and communication at the University of St. Andrews, located in the United Kingdom.
This woman, who was called “White Sword” or “Blanca Sword”, is suspected to have experienced a moment of agony that wounded her and caused a change in behavior. Perhaps when it was hit by a boat or caught in an illegal fishing net, Alfredo López Fernández explained to “Live Science.”
According to a biologist from the University of Aveiro and a representative of the Orca Atlantic Working Group, “White Swords” began to physically touch the ships after this event. Since then, these animals have approached or transported to some five hundred ships. About 20 percent of the time they did physical damage to vehicles.
Orcas, López Fernández added, lack any signs of harming humans.
Rendell finds that explanation more likely, but another one is more likely: they get close because of natural curiosity.
“It’s not impossible that these killer whales perceive their common aggressor in us, but it’s also entirely possible that they don’t,” he said in a post on “The Conversation.”
Deborah Giles, an orca researcher at the University of Washington and the Wild Orca organization, said that “Live Science” could also play a role in the so-called “fad”, which was started by one or the other, by others and repeated over time. later abandoned.
López Fernández commented that the three sunken boats were damaged by pine or were not prepared to withstand the damage.
It is possible that here the behavior is transferred from the adult healers to the younger ones because they learn by imitation and share their cultures. However, it is likely to pass to groups other than killer whales, as it has only been observed in a subpopulation that lives in the Iberian Peninsula, the academics added.
Some scientists are skeptical about the incident that could be vulnerable to the “White Sword”, because they think it is a simple game.
“Whether you’re getting a reward or a thrill out of it. It’s part of playing a predator,” said Erich Hoyt, an orca expert at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
The Iberian subpopulation of killer whales is in danger of extinction, according to the Red List of Threatened Species, since only 39 specimens were recorded in the last census.
If the attacks continue or intensify, there may be a question about the conservation of this group of marine mammals, according to a study published last year in “Marine Mammal Science”.