DiscoverRadiolabThe Humpback and the Killer
The Humpback and the Killer

The Humpback and the Killer

Update: 2022-07-2969
Share

Description

Killer whales — orcas — eat all sorts of animals, including humpback calves. But one day, biologists saw a group of humpback whales trying to stop some killer whales from eating… a seal. And then it happened again. And again. It turns out, all across the oceans, humpback whales are swimming around stopping killer whales from hunting all kinds of animals — from seals to gray whales to sunfish. And of course while many scientists explain this behavior as the result of blind instincts that are ultimately selfish, much of the world celebrates humpbacks as superhero vigilantes of the sea. But when Annie McEwen dug into what was really going on between humpbacks and killer whales, she found a set of stories that refused to fit in either of those two ways of seeing the world.

Special thanks to Eric J. Gleske and Brendan Brucker at Media Services, Oregon State University as well as Colleen Talty at Monterey Bay Whale Watch and California Killer Whale Project. Special thanks also to Doug McKnight and Giuliana Mayo.


Episode Credits:
Reported and produced by Annie McEwen
Original music and sound design by Annie McEwen
Mixing help from Arianne Wack
Fact-checking by Diane Kelly
Edited by Becca Bressler


Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!


Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.


Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.


CITATIONS:


Videos:
Alisa Schulman-Janiger took this video (https://zpr.io/5mYNTWpxs5GV) of the humpbacks defending the gray whale calf’s carcass from the killer whales.


Articles:
Read Robert Pitman’s (et al) paper (https://zpr.io/iU9shuNW9tAj) about the humpbacks saving the seal and a review of the 115 interactions they collected between humpbacks and killer whales.


Books:
The World in the Whale (https://zpr.io/2BHBermJJfKj). If you are interested in whales, you are going to love this book.




Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


 

Comments (2)

squogg

I nearly cried during the piece where the humpback whales kept the orcas from eating the dead calf. Hearing their trumpeting pulled deep at my heart strings.

Oct 6th
Reply

GoatDuckHorseElf

Let's just concede that we aren't the only beings on the planet's that experience a full range of emotions. Let's also consider those whales experience emotions we don't.

Jul 29th
Reply
loading
In Channel
Birthstory

Birthstory

2023-01-2701:03:18

Games

Games

2023-01-1358:05

Universe In Verse

Universe In Verse

2023-01-0633:40

New Normal

New Normal

2022-12-3001:10:32

Null and Void

Null and Void

2022-12-1601:02:52

The Ashes on the Lawn

The Ashes on the Lawn

2022-12-0256:58

What's Up Doc?

What's Up Doc?

2022-11-1824:22

Butt Stuff

Butt Stuff

2022-11-1137:17

Guts

Guts

2022-11-0456:58

The Weather Report

The Weather Report

2022-10-2854:30

Black Box

Black Box

2022-10-2101:08:38

No-Touch Abortion

No-Touch Abortion

2022-10-1427:33

Playing God

Playing God

2022-09-3001:00:58

Quicksaaaand!

Quicksaaaand!

2022-09-1617:32

loading
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store
00:00
00:00
1.0x

0.5x

0.8x

1.0x

1.25x

1.5x

2.0x

3.0x

Sleep Timer

Off

End of Episode

5 Minutes

10 Minutes

15 Minutes

30 Minutes

45 Minutes

60 Minutes

120 Minutes

The Humpback and the Killer

The Humpback and the Killer

WNYC Studios