It is already established that killer whales are intelligent beings, and they have attributes common to us human beings, such as traveling with family groups and taking care of grandchildren after menopause. They can even imitate human speech. But their intelligence does not end there. Marine biologists recently discovered that they are able to form strong and fast friendships with other killer whales. It seems that they also have the concept of a best friend.
[The] new study suggests the whales rival chimpanzees, macaques, and even humans when it comes to the kinds of “social touching” that indicates strong bonds.
The study marks “a very important contribution to the field” of social behavior in dolphins and whales, says José Zamorano-Abramson, a comparative psychologist at the Complutense University of Madrid who wasn’t involved in the work. “These new images show lots of touching of many different types, probably related to different kinds of emotions, much like the complex social dynamics we see in great apes.”
… the researchers recorded more than 800 instances of physical contact between individuals, they report this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Those included slippery hugs, back-to-back and nose-to-nose rubs, and “flipper slaps” between pairs of whales, all dispersed around bouts of leaping out of the water in perfect synchrony. Other whales playfully tossed calves into the air, letting them splash back into the water next to them.
Learn more about this study at Science Magazine.
(Image Credit: NOAA/ Wikimedia Commons)