In the wild, is a human much more likely to live on an come upon with an orca or a really perfect white shark?
— Kameryn F., Yardley, Pa.
By the numbers, white sharks are much more unhealthy to people than orcas are. Despite the identify “killer whale,” there’s just one well-documented example of a wild orca attacking any individual — Hans Kretschmer, who was once bitten at the leg whilst browsing in California in 1972. Attacks through white sharks, despite the fact that nonetheless uncommon, occur relatively somewhat extra regularly; there are a number of hundred on document.
So why are killer whale assaults so uncommon? Emma Luck, a marine-mammal researcher on the University of Alaska, instructed me that a large a part of it is only that orcas don’t come upon people as regularly. “Killer whales are found in all oceans, but they tend to be found in higher densities around cold, high-latitude regions,” she wrote in a message. “These are areas where the water is not particularly inviting for the average beachgoer!”
She stated the 1972 orca assault was once more than likely a case of improper identification, as is the case with many shark assaults. “In an open water context, where all parties can view each other clearly, I would wager that both the shark and the killer whale are going to leave you alone,” she stated.
In reality, you don’t must spend lengthy surfing police blotters to substantiate that no longer handiest are killer whale assaults rarer than shark assaults, they’re additionally rarer than documented circumstances of swimmers being attacked and bitten through different people. Granted, that’s as a result of there are much more people than orcas round, however that doesn’t trade the realization: In the sea, you’re much more likely to be attacked and bitten through an individual than through a killer whale.
Because sharks and orcas each spend maximum in their time hidden underwater, we regularly recall to mind them in relation to their temporary interactions with us — will they assault us or no longer? If the one two choices are “Don’t attack the human” and “Attack the human,” it’s onerous no longer to concentrate on the second. After all, it’s the second one perhaps possibility!
But sharks and orcas aren’t simply placing out down there deciding whether or not to assault us. Like the people you go in the street, they’re most commonly busy doing their very own factor.
And in relation to orcas, one of the crucial issues they’re busy doing is being worried about humpback whales.
For causes which might be unclear to scientists, humpback whales nearly appear to have a vendetta in opposition to killer whales, as a 2016 paper within the magazine Marine Mammal Science famous. All over the arena, orcas looking to chase down meals are robotically interrupted through out-of-the-blue humpback whale assaults. Humpbacks will band in combination and shuttle nice distances to interfere in killer whale hunts, irrespective of what the prey species is.
The paper even paperwork circumstances of humpback whales reputedly lifting seals up out of the water and conserving them out of achieve of the orcas. The humpbacks stayed and safe the prey for hours, till the orcas have been compelled to depart hungry.
Why do humpbacks do that? Is this altruism? Game idea? Cross-mammal unity? An aspect-effect in their intuition to give protection to calves? Or do they only actually hate orcas, for causes recognized handiest to them?
“It’s hard to understand why it happens,” Ms. Luck stated. “Especially because it’s not limited to just one population of humpbacks. It happens all over the world.”
So should you do come upon a killer whale within the ocean, don’t concern, it’s not likely to assault you. And should you’re nonetheless apprehensive … in all probability imagine befriending a humpback.