Monday, February 8, 2010

Orcas Wave Hunting

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I happened upon a segment on Animal Planet which featured Orca hunting practices. Please read this article before watching the video...

We all know that online networking and technology is changing the way we market and conduct business, but who knew that networking would advance our knowledge of the world? Now, almost everyone carries a camera phone, an apple ipod, or a digital camera. Nearly everyone has the capacity to quick-draw their devices and record events unfolding before them. As an example, the video I'm about to share with you was taken by a couple (not scientists) visiting Antarctica who were so fortunate as to witness a pod of orcas training two of their young how to wave hunt. This demonstration of orcas actively teaching their young has been recorded few times by scientists (never before on video). According to Animal Planet, the video has been used in orca studies.

When watching the video, I suggest you disable the sound. There are female voices in the background sympathizing with the crabeater seal, which can be very distracting.

The scientists chosen to explain the video, on Animal Planet, described various known behaviors such as "spyhopping" which is a bobbing action orcas do to spy their prey. The orcas break away the ice from the ice float, and spin the ice float to an open area where they commence "wave hunting" the crabeater seal. The first attack on the ice float happens at 1:12 (one minute and twelve seconds) where two adult orcas charge the float at approximately 35mph, and dive down below the ice just before impact. They create a wake that washes over top the ice which is meant to dislodge the seal.

Throughout the video, the orcas will repeat this action with additional adult pod-members. In the last charge, the pod will incorporate one of the two identified juveniles. Note that the pod matriarch stations herself on the opposing side of the ice float. Scientists believed she signaled each charge by blowing bubbles (what sounded like a horse's war blast).

The amount of team work and coordination involved in wave hunting is astounding. How about two thumbs up for the second largest brain in the world?

It may interest you to know that our Southern Resident Orcas of Puget Sound differ from the orcas featured in the video. Southern Residents will not hunt other mammals. Their diet consists strictly of fish (which is the source of their impending disappearance). I don't know, but is it possible this cultural difference takes part in Southern Resident's willful refusal to mate with transients or offshore orca? Transients around the world have been recorded hunting other whales, including blue whale, and have participated in cannibalism. I'd like to think our Southern Residents simply find the behavior distasteful, and that they have standards, but what do I know? ;-)

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