Remarkable video showed a false killer whale twisting and twirling in front of divers. The species is known to socialize with humans, even bringing them large fish. – DAVID RAUDALES


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Remarkable video showed a false killer whale twisting and twirling in front of divers. The species is known to socialize with humans, even bringing them large fish.

A man free diving with false killer whales, Revillagigedo Islands, Socorro, Baja California, Mexico.

Romona Robbins Photography

Video taken by divers showed a false killer whale twirling right in front of them in Costa Rica.Research biologist Robin Baird said the species has been documented passing fish to humans.He said the behavior suggests false killer whales view humans as something very similar to them.

A extraordinary video captured the moment a false killer whale appeared to dance and twirl in front of a group of scuba divers near Costa Rica, but it wasn’t the first time the species got friendly with humans.

False killer whales, so-named because their skulls are like a smaller version of an orca’s, are members of the dolphin family and are found in all of Earth’s oceans, primarily in tropical regions. They’re typically dark grey or black and are highly social creatures.

The company Rich Coast Diving, which posted the video last month, said in a Facebook post that as soon as its divers jumped in the water they could hear squeaking sounds that started getting louder and louder. Initially, they thought the sounds were coming from dolphins, but they began to become more intense and included clicking sounds they were less familiar with.

“Suddenly two massive shadows came right at us and one just stopped right in front of the group,” the company wrote, adding that the next thing they knew, a 13 to 16 foot false killer whale “started shaking and dancing and twirling and twerking and blowing bubbles!! Right in front of us! It was so close and just stayed there giving us the show of a lifetime!”

The company said the divers were in shock and just trying to understand what was happening. After about two minutes, the two false killer whales swam off. The boat captain later told the divers a whole pod had passed by, which may have explained how loud and intense the vocalizations were.

The company added that the species is known to be social and playful and they “can only guess” what the whale was trying to communicate to them. One person from the company said in a comment under the video that in their 18 years of diving this was the first time they’d ever experienced something like this.

But it was not the first time that false killer whales have been documented appearing to socialize with humans.

False killer whales are highly social and engage in cooperating hunting and prey sharing.

Lee Bertrand

Robin Baird, a research biologist and the Hawaii program director for Cascadia Research Collective, told Insider that it’s hard to say for sure what the false killer whale in the video was doing.

But Baird, who studies the species near Hawaii, said false killer whales interact with people quite regularly, and are known to approach swimmers. However, the whales also interact with humans in way that appears distinct from how other whale and dolphin species do: by bringing people fish.

Baird described some of those encounters in his 2016 book, “The Lives of Hawai’i’s Dolphins and Whales: Natural History and Conservation.”

One case took place near Kona in 1984, when researcher Dan McSweeney jumped into the water while following a group of false killer whales. Two whales were vocalizing nearby, when suddenly McSweeney saw a third whale swimming right toward him with most of an ahi, or yellowfin tuna, weighing approximately 100 pounds, in its mouth.

“The whale stopped a couple of meters away and opened its mouth, letting the fish go, and the momentum carried the fish towards Dan,” Baird wrote. “The whale was obviously offering the fish to him, and Dan reached out and took it.”

The false killer whale proceeded to blow bubbles before moving away from McSweeney and then circling back, stopping beside him. McSweeney then pushed the ahi back towards the whale, which grabbed it and swam back to the other whales. The false killer whales then passed the fish back and forth and began to eat it, with each of them getting a share.

False killer whale

Morten Falch Sortland

The sharing of prey is common for false killer whales, which are long-lived creatures with strong social bonds, Baird said. He’s observed false killer whales in Hawaii catching large fish like ono or mahi mahi and passing them back and forth. None of the whales will eat the fish at first — until it is eventually returned to the individual who caught it, and who will take the first bite before sharing with the others.

Baird told Insider the behavior likely serves to strengthen social bonds between the false killer whales, which engage in cooperative hunting and will typically spend their entire lives in the same social group.

Another similar interaction between false killer whales and humans occurred in British Columbia in the 1980s. A lone false killer whale, far from its typical range, would catch fish and offer them to people on boats. In one case, the whale brought a salmon to two guys on a small boat and would let go of it beside the boat, only to grab it once it started to sink.

The fact that the whales are offering fish to humans in the same way they pass it back and forth amongst themselves suggests they don’t just view humans as something interesting that they can play with in the water, but as something that is “very similar to them,” Baird said.

As for the video of the false killer whale twirling before the divers, he said it’s likely on that same scale of behavior.

“These cases of offering fish to people, to me, reflect that they’re somehow viewing humans as something similar to them,” he said. “Something that they can relate to.”

Read the original article on Business Insider