Marine Altruism

Humpback_whale_noaaAs one of the most truculent and egoistic election seasons in history continues to accelerate (deteriorate), it’s nice to remember that not all mammals are out for uninhibited self gain.

Humpback whales are the focus of more and more attention for what is seemingly altruistic behavior in the wild, and they especially like to target killers.

4054A recent MNN article offered links to Marine ecologist Robert Pitman’s fascinating study of confrontations between humpbacks and orcas over a 62 year period.

In the BBC clip below, two humpbacks (they often work in pairs) run interference on a pod of killer whales attempting to separate a calf from her gray whale mother. They’ve also also been observed rescuing harbor seals, sea lions, sunfish, and the occasional Libertarian.

A majority of the interventions occur at the time of attack, pointing to the whale’s deliberate decision to help. This isn’t random behavior, but an unselfish choice. These whales are exerting a considerable effort, even putting themselves in danger, without any immediate benefit to themselves… candidates take note.

Though you’d never guess it observing the current political shark tank, the hypothesis appears to be that helping those in need is genetically hard wired into many species. We just might need to crawl back into the ocean to reactivate it.



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