Orca Attack Seal with Waves

From Nature News.

A pack of killer whales uses waves to knock seals off the ice.

They made large waves to wash the seal off the relative safety of the ice. Later the orca put the seal back on the ice and dislodged the seal a second time which suggested strongly they were training their young.

It is not the first time a complex behaviour has been seen in just a few orcas. In the early 1970s, an orca was seen in Argentina beaching itself next to seals. At first it seemed to be in distress, but then it lunged at seals nearby, grabbed one by the neck, and dragged it back into the water. This beaching hunting technique has since been observed hundreds of times in Argentina among a small group of orcas. Studies have shown that the orcas can time their forays onto land to coincide with the tides, so they run less risk of becoming permanently beached.

Both the beaching and the wave hunting seem to be techniques that pod elders teach to younger animals. The Argentinean orcas have been seen nudging youngsters onto the shore, encouraging them to try the tactic, often coming up alongside to demonstrate. In the group at the Antarctic Peninsula, young orcas are often present during the hunt, and adults sometimes put living seals back on the ice after catching them, seemingly so that the young can have another try.

“This is orca culture,” says Visser.


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