[Science] Humpback whales showing 'altruistic behavior'?

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09 Aug 2016 14:01 #251421 by Jestor

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09 Aug 2016 18:34 #251464 by Lykeios Little Raven
Very interesting!

It's cool to see that there are other animals capable of altruism. (Assuming that this IS altruism, which it certainly seems to be.) Altruism is typically a human trait, or perhaps a primate trait. It's astonishing to see whales risking their lives to protect other species.

Thanks for sharing!

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10 Aug 2016 16:23 #251711 by Death, yet the Force
Replied by Death, yet the Force on topic [Science] Humpback whales showing 'altruistic behavior'?
Very interesting, certainly opened my eyes a little!

Thanks for sharing :)

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11 Aug 2016 05:26 #251796 by Jack
Is it altruism if Humpbacks are only saving other animals from killer whales?

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11 Aug 2016 14:01 #251833 by Goken
What if they're not being nice to the other animals, they're just being mean to the killer whales?

:ohmy: :lol:

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11 Aug 2016 16:44 #251845 by OB1Shinobi

Lykeios wrote: Very interesting!

It's cool to see that there are other animals capable of altruism. (Assuming that this IS altruism, which it certainly seems to be.) Altruism is typically a human trait, or perhaps a primate trait. It's astonishing to see whales risking their lives to protect other species.

Thanks for sharing!


your comment sparked my curiosity so i asked the internets
apparently there are two kinds of altruism - the "moral" altruism of "helping someone" and the purely biological altruism, which i learned about from this site: plato.stanford.edu/entries/altruism-biological/

a quote from above article:

"In evolutionary biology, an organism is said to behave altruistically when its behaviour benefits other organisms, at a cost to itself. The costs and benefits are measured in terms of reproductive fitness, or expected number of offspring. So by behaving altruistically, an organism reduces the number of offspring it is likely to produce itself, but boosts the number that other organisms are likely to produce. This biological notion of altruism is not identical to the everyday concept. In everyday parlance, an action would only be called ‘altruistic’ if it was done with the conscious intention of helping another. But in the biological sense there is no such requirement. Indeed, some of the most interesting examples of biological altruism are found among creatures that are (presumably) not capable of conscious thought at all, e.g. insects. For the biologist, it is the consequences of an action for reproductive fitness that determine whether the action counts as altruistic, not the intentions, if any, with which the action is performed.

Altruistic behaviour is common throughout the animal kingdom, particularly in species with complex social structures. For example, vampire bats regularly regurgitate blood and donate it to other members of their group who have failed to feed that night, ensuring they do not starve. In numerous bird species, a breeding pair receives help in raising its young from other ‘helper’ birds, who protect the nest from predators and help to feed the fledglings. Vervet monkeys give alarm calls to warn fellow monkeys of the presence of predators, even though in doing so they attract attention to themselves, increasing their personal chance of being attacked. In social insect colonies (ants, wasps, bees and termites), sterile workers devote their whole lives to caring for the queen, constructing and protecting the nest, foraging for food, and tending the larvae. Such behaviour is maximally altruistic: sterile workers obviously do not leave any offspring of their own—so have personal fitness of zero—but their actions greatly assist the reproductive efforts of the queen."

People are complicated.
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11 Aug 2016 16:47 - 11 Aug 2016 16:48 #251846 by OB1Shinobi

Goken wrote: What if they're not being nice to the other animals, they're just being mean to the killer whales?

:ohmy: :lol:


thank you ;)

not saying that the whales arent happy to help out the little guy from time to time but its not likely that theyre on any kind of mission to end aquatic predation

my guess is that its more to do with the fact that orcas are predators to young whales

my questions would be "how long has this been happening?" and "what effect does it have/has it had on the orca population?"

People are complicated.
Last edit: 11 Aug 2016 16:48 by OB1Shinobi.
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11 Aug 2016 16:51 #251847 by Goken

OB1Shinobi wrote: Altruistic behaviour is common throughout the animal kingdom, particularly in species with complex social structures. For example, vampire bats regularly regurgitate blood and donate it to other members of their group who have failed to feed that night, ensuring they do not starve. In numerous bird species, a breeding pair receives help in raising its young from other ‘helper’ birds, who protect the nest from predators and help to feed the fledglings. Vervet monkeys give alarm calls to warn fellow monkeys of the presence of predators, even though in doing so they attract attention to themselves, increasing their personal chance of being attacked. In social insect colonies (ants, wasps, bees and termites), sterile workers devote their whole lives to caring for the queen, constructing and protecting the nest, foraging for food, and tending the larvae. Such behaviour is maximally altruistic: sterile workers obviously do not leave any offspring of their own—so have personal fitness of zero—but their actions greatly assist the reproductive efforts of the queen."


A difference, I think, between what you've quoted here and what the article in the OP talks about is that the whales are saving members of other species whereas the animals in your quote are assisting members of their own species. I'm not sure what that means exactly but I find it to be an interesting difference.

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11 Aug 2016 17:21 #251851 by OB1Shinobi
so, i went back to the internets and found this: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12343/abstract

"Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are known to interfere with attacking killer whales (Orcinus orca). To investigate why, we reviewed accounts of 115 interactions between them. Humpbacks initiated the majority of interactions (57% vs. 43%; n = 72), although the killer whales were almost exclusively mammal-eating forms (MEKWs, 95%) vs. fish-eaters (5%; n = 108). When MEKWs approached humpbacks (n = 27), they attacked 85% of the time and targeted only calves. When humpbacks approached killer whales (n = 41), 93% were MEKWs, and ≥87% of them were attacking or feeding on prey at the time. When humpbacks interacted with attacking MEKWs, 11% of the prey were humpbacks and 89% comprised 10 other species, including three cetaceans, six pinnipeds, and one teleost fish. Approaching humpbacks often harassed attacking MEKWs (≥55% of 56 interactions), regardless of the prey species, which we argue was mobbing behavior. Humpback mobbing sometimes allowed MEKW prey, including nonhumpbacks, to escape. We suggest that humpbacks initially responded to vocalizations of attacking MEKWs without knowing the prey species targeted. Although reciprocity or kin selection might explain communal defense of conspecific calves, there was no apparent benefit to humpbacks continuing to interfere when other species were being attacked. Interspecific altruism, even if unintentional, could not be ruled out."

----

what i would hypothesize is that whales who survived orca attacks and whales who witnessed successful predations from orca to other b whales, remembered these attacks, and at some point after they got big enough to fight, started interfering with orca feeding

at some level i think they understand that this is bad for the orcas - now i am really curious how developed their understanding is

People are complicated.
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11 Aug 2016 17:56 - 11 Aug 2016 17:57 #251856 by Jestor

OB1Shinobi wrote:

Goken wrote: What if they're not being nice to the other animals, they're just being mean to the killer whales?

:ohmy: :lol:


thank you ;)

not saying that the whales arent happy to help out the little guy from time to time but its not likely that theyre on any kind of mission to end aquatic predation

my guess is that its more to do with the fact that orcas are predators to young whales

my questions would be "how long has this been happening?" and "what effect does it have/has it had on the orca population?"


Emphasis mine... :)


In the article, it is wrote: There is also some reason to believe that the behavior isn't entirely selfless. Mature humpback whales are too large and too formidable to be hunted by orcas themselves, but their calves are vulnerable. Orcas have been witnessed hunting humpback whale calves in much the same way that they hunt gray whale calves. So, by proactively foiling orca hunts, perhaps the humpbacks are hoping to make them think twice about messing with their own calves.


Thanks for your articles too!

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Last edit: 11 Aug 2016 17:57 by Jestor.
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