Every student who has made it past elementary school knows that creatures like orcas and other whales are advanced mammals… but sometimes we forget just how intelligent they really are.
A video from SeaWorld in San Diego can be seen as either disturbing or amazing, depending on your perspective. The footage shows a “killer whale” living up to its name by patiently tricking a bird using fish as bait, and then striking.
“At the beginning of the video, an orca emerges near a cluster of birds and deposits a fish,” IFLScience explained about the clip, which is several years old.
“After setting its trap, the whale waits patiently for a foolhardy soul to take the bait, lunging forward and clamping onto the bird’s wing as it gingerly hops forward to retrieve the tasty snack – only to become a tasty snack itself,” the informative site continued.
Orcas are in fact some of the most intelligent animals on earth. Experts currently believe that they’re able to learn much like humans — and may even have the ability to pass on their knowledge to other whales.
“Research and observations in recent years have revealed that whales and dolphins not only have the ability to learn as individuals, but those individuals can then pass their new knowledge onto others. This is a rare intelligence in the animal kingdom,” stated the non-profit group Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
“Orcas in Norway, for example, work together to herd schools of herring into tight balls. Swimming round and under their prey to create a bait ball, the orcas then spin around and slap the balled fish with their tails, stunning them for easy feeding,” that organization explained.
Additional studies show that orcas in other locations use similar bait-and-trap techniques to hunt birds and even larger animals.
“Killer whales hunt like wolves, encircling prey before attacking. In the stomachs of orcas, scientists have found the remains of seals, penguins, polar bears and even a moose,”Live Science reported. “Now researchers at Marineland in Ontario, Canada have observed a four-year-old killer whale setting a trap for seagulls by spitting fish onto the water’s surface as bait.”
“The whale would sink below the water and wait for an unsuspecting gull to come down for a meal. Once the bird took the bait, the whale would lunge at it with open jaws. The whale, pleased with the results, set up the trap over and over again,” that science news site continued.
There’s no doubt the massive sea creatures are very intelligent, but they won’t be challenging humans for apex status any time soon.
“To get a rough measure of animal smarts, scientists look at something called the encephalization quotient (EQ). EQ is the ratio of an animal’s actual brain size compared to the expected brain size for an animal of its mass,” PBS reported.
“Like other members of Delphinidae–the dolphin branch of the cetacean family tree–orcas rank high in EQ. They score about 2.5, which is significantly less than humans at about 7 and bottlenose dolphins at around 4, but higher than baleen whales who all score less than 1,” the public broadcaster said.
While the video offers an interesting look at how animals apply their intelligence, it is also an important reminder that nature is not as “peaceful” and serene as some of the granola-eating crowd would like us to believe.
The reality is that nature is a cycle of life, death, hunting and survival. That’s worth keeping in mind the next time the left tries to bash outdoorsmen who fish or bow-hunt. At the same time, part of man’s responsibility is to respect nature and conserve it intelligently.
Speaking of respecting animals, if an orca ever tosses a fish in front of you and looks up eagerly, it might be smart to back away. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
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