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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Spain. Orcs attack the boats. Scientists on the trail of solving the mystery

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Killer whale attacks on vessels, which have been increasing for three years in the Strait of Gibraltar, are probably for the fun of these animals, say Spanish biologists, quoted by “El Mundo”. According to research, it may have all started in 2017 with a scarred killer whale injured by a boat.

Scientists have been observing an increased number of killer whale attacks on boats and yachts in the Iberian Peninsula since 2020. The main target of aggression of these animals is the rudders, they usually manage to destroy this element of the vessel.

A team led by Renaud de Stephanis of Spain’s Organization for the Conservation, Information and Research of Cetaceans (CIRCE) noted that the unusual approach of killer whales to the rudders and attempts to destroy them has increased especially in the Strait of Gibraltar, where since 2020 there have been at least 130 killer whale attacks on yachts and boats.

One of the most recent incidents of its kind occurred in late May when a pack of killer whales surrounded and attacked the British-flagged Mustique boat, damaging the rudder and hull. The Spanish government agency responsible for maritime security, SASEMAR, said this was the 24th attack by these marine mammals since the beginning of this year in the waters around the Iberian Peninsula.

Scientists: killer whales have been attacking for six years

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De Stephanis and his team noted that the phenomenon was already practiced by marine mammals in 2017. According to the researchers, evidence of this is one of the juveniles, probably a male, born in 2011, swimming off the southern coast of Spain. Its presence was documented by CIRE, which has been tracking the lives of Iberian killer whales since 1996. A scar was observed on the back of this individual after being injured by the rudder of the boat – it has been established.

According to the Spanish team of scientists, this specimen damaged by the yacht belongs to one of the seven to eight families of killer whales inhabiting the Strait of Gibraltar. In total, they estimate, there are 63 individuals, among which – according to the observations of biologists – the killer whale with a scar is one of the most frequent attacks on boats.

killer whaleShutterstock

A way to have fun?

De Stephanis rules out, however, that the orca’s behavior, wounded in the past, resulted from a desire for revenge. The researcher claims that it is just a strange game that other individuals around the animal imitate. The authors of the study note that killer whales often follow a herd mentality, and the example of one individual’s behavior is often adopted by others, which probably happened among killer whales inhabiting the Strait of Gibraltar.

The authors of the study in a report prepared for the Spanish government wrote that the ebb and flow of water caused by the rudders of vessels can encourage orcas to play.

Scientists recall that in 2004, another unusual behavior for killer whales was observed, which consisted in causing large wounds on the body of tunas. Orcas did not eat these fish, but only bit off the side of their flesh. According to Spanish biologists, this unusual behavior of marine mammals could also be their strange game.

PAP, El Mundo, tvnmeteo.pl

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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