Groups of Orcas have sunk three boats off the coast of Europe and scientists aren’t exactly sure why. The current belief is that the behavior may have begun after a traumatized orca attacked a boat during a “critical moment of agony,” Live Science reports. The researchers believe the social aspect of learning is responsible for the spread of the behaviour.
Orcas, which are also known as killer whales, aren’t typically aggressive. However, the first of these incidents began in May of 2020. Scientists who are studying these incidents think that the Orca was driven to attack the vessel by anguish. Since then, though, others have been spotted attack sailboats and other vessels around them.
Most of the encounters end up harmless, one of the scientists told Live Science. However more than 500 interactions have been recorded since that first one in 2020. These orca attacks on boats have resulted in three sunken vessels, which raises concerns about how the situation might develop. While the scientists aren’t 100 percent sure the attacks began with that initial one, it is clear the orcas are attacking on purpose.
Experts involved in studying the incidents say that the first incident happened after a female orca named White Gladis suffered a collision with a boat, or entrapment in an illegal fishing net, which triggered a behaviour switch. Orcas being social creatures, this behavior spread to the most recent incident, where three orcas attacked and sank a small vessel.
What’s even more intriguing and baffling is that the orcas all seem to make a straight path for the boat’s rudder, biting or breaking it. If the behavior is defensive, it’s possible it could continue, not only putting boats at risk, but also putting the orcas themselves at risk from the trauma caused by crashing into these vessels.
While their deaths cannot be directly linked to the incidents, it is possible that the deaths of four orcas that have died since the first boat attack in 2020 could somehow be connected to these incidents. The scientists are still baffled as to whether or not the actions are the orcas being playful, or if they are actively trying to be aggressive, as orcas are normally more playful creatures.
Orcas are one of the only animals that sharks fear, so maybe it isn’t that surprising that they can be so aggressive, even if the orcas are attacking the boats in a playful manner.
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