You would think an animal that weighs upwards of 8,000 pounds would have trouble being sneaky, but it turns out looks are deceiving. A new study has found that killer whales, or orcas, are teaching each other how to steal fish from humans, reports The Weather Channel.
Researchers observed the feeding habits of whales off the coast of the Crozet Islands in the southern Indian Ocean, monitoring two populations over 16 years, between 2003-2018. What initially caught researchers’ eyes was the fact that whales were feeding on fish caught in nets and hooks more frequently at the study site. However, they wanted to find out if this was because multiple new orca groups were stealing the fish or if a few particular groups had learned how to continuously steal the fish.
Though widely recognized for its size, this gigantic species of whale is also highly intelligent, able to coordinate with others in hunting strategically and teach skills to its family. And because killer whales also have distinct color patterns on them, the scientists were able to identify and study them more easily. They came to find that a few groups of orcas were returning often and were responsible for the fish raids. The study explained that the way the whales were able to do this was by observing and learning from each other.
Though this puts local fisheries in a tough spot, I can’t help but point out that this feels both like a natural part of evolution and a little bit of karma. Species often adapt to the changing environment around them. So, if the orca’s food supply is decreasing due to human involvement, of course they’re going to look for ways to get more fish. And well, by now I’m sure we all recognize the negative impact the human species can and has had on various animal populations (i.e. destroying habitats pushing animals to the endangered and extinct lists). Let them eat fish!