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Orcas Evolve Based On Culture

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The amazing marine mammals handover their clever hunting tactics to teach their offspring survival skills...

Orcas are amongst the most intelligent creatures on this planet; occasionally referred to as killer whales, but in actual fact they are dolphins!

At the University of Bern in Switzerland researchers have now discovered that orca populations have developed their hunting skills throughout history due to knowledge passed down from their genetic ancestors.

This cultural experience contributes in the shaping of different groups of these majestic creatures and impacts their biological evolution.

Adult orcas handover their clever hunting tactics to teach their offspring survival skills. This is a form of cultural transfer.

Various groups of orcas have different hunting strategies, which indicates variations in culture. This is something that has only been witnessed within the human race.

There are many elements that contribute difference in cultures amongst orcas just like in us humans. Environmental elements such as food availability, temperatures as well as being dispersed around the world all contribute to difference in culture.

Similar to humans, these apex predators permanently settle in an area, which naturally form communities. Through these communities, orcas cultivate and specialise in the way they hunt.

Different hunting techniques have been recorded within different orca cultures, many of which are extremely sophisticated showing how intelligent they really are. Some will direct their prey into ball pits whereas others will beach themselves in order to gain attention of seals and other forms of prey.

Although culture has been detected in other species, the culture found in humans and now orcas is held in in high regard as it contributes to push their biological evolution.

Researchers found the genomes of orcas, which is the set of chromosomes in an organism, can be characterised by the different cultural groups. Their findings showed this to be apparent due to geographical spread or orcas dispersed around the globe.

The amazing depth and intelligence levels these creatures posses is over-whale-ming if you ask us!

Photograph by Robert Pittman/NOAA