Orcas now teaching each other to ram and capsize boats

Three boats have been attacked and sunk by orcas off the Iberian coast, and it appears that the behavior is is being learned and copied by the population. Link to Live Science article here.

"Three orcas (Orcinus orca), also known as killer whales, struck the yacht on the night of May 4 in the Strait of Gibraltar, off the coast of Spain, and pierced the rudder. "There were two smaller and one larger orca," skipper Werner Schaufelberger told the German publication Yacht. "The little ones shook the rudder at the back while the big one repeatedly backed up and rammed the ship with full force from the side." 

"Schaufelberger said he saw the smaller orcas imitate the larger one. "The two little orcas observed the bigger one's technique and, with a slight run-up, they too slammed into the boat." Spanish coast guards rescued the crew and towed the boat to Barbate, but it sank at the port entrance."

Scientists can only guess at the origin of this aggressive behavior.

Experts suspect that a female orca they call White Gladis suffered a "critical moment of agony" — a collision with a boat or entrapment during illegal fishing — that flipped a behavioral switch. "That traumatized orca is the one that started this behavior of physical contact with the boat," Alfredo López Fernandez [a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal and representative of the Grupo de Trabajo Orca Atlántica, or Atlantic Orca Working Group] said.

Orcas are highly intelligent and social animals that develop complex localized cultures, a suite of behaviors they learn from one another. In fact, this article suggests that orcas may be the only animal other than humans whose evolution has been driven by culture.

This story has become something of a sensation on the new social media app, and potential Twitter competitor, BlueSky (in beta mode), where users are unanimously rooting for the orcas.