Scientists have a theory for why orcas keep ramming yachts

  • Orcas just want to have fun.

  • Orcas have been ramming boats off Spain, Portugal, and Morocco since 2020.

  • A group of scientists now argues it's because the orcas are bored and feeling playful.

Orcas have been causing mayhem off the coasts of Spain, Portugal, and Morocco for the past several years, causing problems for local sailors by ramming and bumping their boats.

But a group of scientists now believes these orcas don't have malicious intentbut rather are just being silly.

The group, consisting of over a dozen scientists and orca experts who've been studying the region's orcas for years, explained its findings in a report from the International Whaling Commission published Friday.

The Portuguese and Spanish governments commissioned the report in response to a spate of incidents in which a small group of orcas around the Iberian Peninsula had rammed into — and sometimes sank — at least 673 boats since 2020.

Despite the damage the orcas have done, the scientists argue that the orcas are not trying to be aggressive or destructive but are just like bored teenagers looking for a bit of fun.

"The sea is a very boring place for an animal," Renaud de Stephanis, the president of Conservation, Information, and Research on Cetaceans, a marine-life preservation organization, told USA Today. "Imagine if you're a dog or some other mammal, you can interact with objects around you. But in the sea there's not much for the orcas to interact with, so they play with the rudders."

The report suggested young juvenile orcas, who tend to be more curious and exploratory, started the trend, which then spread through the population.

And orcas, like humans, love following trends.

The highly intelligent and social mammals are known to experience "fads" within their pods. For example, past orca populations have even gone around wearing dead salmon as hats, for no other apparent reason than everyone else was doing it.

This long series of boat-ramming incidents could be no different.

"The orcas don't know that the interactions with the boats causes problems to humans," Alex Zerbini, the chair of the International Whaling Commission's scientific committee, who worked on the report, told Business Insider. "For them this is like a game."

"The key message is that there is not evidence that this behavior is aggressive or that the whales are 'attacking' the boats," Zerbini added. "This appears to be a fad, which plays a role in the orcas cultural development."

But why now? The scientists say it's likely because the tuna population, which is the Iberian killer whales' primary food source, has dramatically increased in recent years, giving the orcas more time away from hunting.

And with all that free time, the apex predators have chosen to have a little fun. But don't worry: Even if an orca does ram and sink your ship, you're probably not in danger. No one has been injured in any of the incidents so far.

Read the original article on Business Insider