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Humpback Whale vs. Killer Whale

Whale jumping in the air
Whale jumping in the air . Image by GUDKOVANDREY via Depositphotos

What drives humpback whales to defend other species against orca attacks?

Humpback whales have been documented to defend other species against killer whale attacks. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has captured this remarkable interaction on camera! This article sheds light on the exciting relationship between humpback and killer whales.

A Bigg's orca whale jumping out of the sea in Vancouver Island, Canada.
A Bigg’s orca whale jumping out of the sea in Vancouver Island, Canada. Image by Wirestock via Depositphotos

An Apex Predator

Orcas, or killer whales are the largest members of the dolphin family. Their name, killer whale reflects their status as one of the ocean’s most feared apex predators. Their diet includes fish, sharks and marine mammals.



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Jumping orca whales
New Remove BG Save Share Sample New Jumping orca whales Image by MennoSchaefer via Depositphotos

The Humpback Hero’s

Killer whales are known to prey on whale calves. This usually illicits a response from the whale pod. Humpback whales especially protect their young from killer whale advances. Interestingly, researchers have recorded several instances of humpbacks approaching hunting orcas without apparent provocation. Watch the video below of humpback whales trying to protect a grey whale calf from a pod of killer whales.

YouTube video
 “Humpback whales’ attempt to stop killer whale attack – Planet Earth Live – BBC One”, Source: “YouTube”, Uploaded: “BBC”

Humpback Whales Protect other Species

Mother and calf Humpback whales.
Mother and calf Humpback whales. Image by ead72 via Depositphotos

Why do humpback whales try stop ocras from succeeding in their hunt without any clear personal gain?

According to studies referenced in National Geographic, this behavior might be an evolutionary response by humpacks to protect their young. By regularly disrupting killer whale hunts, humpback whales might decrease the overall success rate of orca hunts. This indirect action could safeguard their calves in the long run.

These heroic acts reveal interesting interspecies relationships that extend beyond mere survival insticts.

Human threats to humpback whales

Humpback Whale Jumping Out Of The Water
Humpback Whale Jumping Out Of The Water. Image by GUDKOVANDREY via Depositphotos

Humpback whale populations have recovered remarkably since the end of the whaling era but they are still threatened by human activities. They are directly threatened by entanglements in fishing gear and collisions with ships. Noise pollution from seismic surveys also directly impacts their communication, breeding and feeding.

Humpback whales are also indirectly threatened by pollution and climate change. Continued conservation efforts ensures their survival and continued population health.

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