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Orca Reconciliation

October 2, 2006

A captive killer whales couple makes peace after a fight.


How killer whales make up. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

At least one killer whale couple has a way to kiss and make up, and others may, too. That’s according to animal behaviorist Michael Noonan of Canisuis College and his student Cerrene Giordano. They studied a year’s worth of video tape of one pair of captive killer whales, and found eight incidents of aggression, in which the female chases the male. After a cooling-off period, Noonan says the killer whales then begin to swim along side-by-side, in a friendly behavior called echelon swimming.

MICHAEL NOONAN (Canisius College):
And they don’t just swim along side-by-side, their tail strokes stroke in synchrony. It almost looks like a dance—an underwater dance. It’s beautiful to watch.

He says this peacemaking behavior is one of only a few known outside the world of primates.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.