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Killer whales attacked a sailing boat near Spain, and researchers are puzzled

Killer whales attack and capsize boats off the coast of Spain, what researchers say could be learned behavior. The local maritime rescue service said on Thursday that several killer whales had damaged a sailboat, adding to dozens of reports of killer whale attacks off the coast of Spain and Portugal this year.

The sailboat was bound for Gibraltar early Thursday morning when a group of killer whales pierced the hull of the boat and broke the rudder. A rapid reaction ship was sent to the aid of the 66-foot British ship, which towed it to the port of Barbate in the province of Cadiz for repairs.

Killer whale sightings on the rise from 2020, leading researchers to wonder why the killer whale, historically a peaceful mammal, would suddenly start attacking sailing ships. But one researcher from Portugal thinks he has the answer.

The attacks may have been carried out by a killer whale, which scientists call White Gladys, when it experienced a “critical moment of agony” with the boat, said Alfredo López Fernández, a marine biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal. living science. “This injured killer whale initiated such physical contact with the boat,” he said, adding: “Orcas are doing this on purpose.” But other researchers are not so sure.

Andrew W. Trites, Professor and Director of Marine Mammal Research at the University of British Columbia, said: CBS News that he doesn’t believe that whales retaliate. “I read that something provoked one of the adult females, and she takes revenge and teaches others to do the same, ramming ships and trying to intentionally sink them,” he said. “Ramming a ship is as smart as crashing into a brick wall at full speed. You will get hurt.”

There were 207 interactions with killer whales last year alone, according to the research team. GTOA which also found that there were 20 interactions this month in the Strait of Gibraltar, where a British vessel was damaged on Thursday.

This was told by Monica Wieland Shields, director of the Orca Behavior Institute in Washington. NBC News“I think it’s perceived as aggression because it causes damage, but I don’t think we can say that motivation is necessarily aggressive.”

Shields confirmed that killer whales are generally gentle creatures, not known for being aggressive towards humans, even when attacked and placed in captivity. “They definitely had reasons for this behavior,” she told the publication. “There are places where fishermen shot at them, they saw how in the 60s and 70s their family members were taken captive. And if something could provoke direct aggression, I would think that something like that should have done it.”

While researchers continue to speculate about mysterious behavioral changes in killer whales, the truth is that no one knows. “My idea, or whatever anyone else has to offer you, is an informed guess,” Trites said in an interview with CBS News. “It’s a complete mystery, unprecedented.”

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