Killer whales keep ramming and sinking boats. Scientists now may know why, report says.

“Overall the incidents have mostly involved juveniles, who are “more playful and courageous in approaching boats,” said Zerbini, who also chairs the International Whaling Commission’s scientific committee.
He imagines a young orca butted its head against a boat’s rudder one time and when it moved the orca thought, “This is fun.” After ramming it a few times, a piece of the rudder broke off and that was even more fun because there was something to play with.

“There’s documented evidence of the orcas then playing with the pieces,” he said.

Orcas, which are also called killer whales, are not actually a whale species but are instead the largest member of the dolphin family.

This type of behavior isn’t surprising, given that orcas have culture, exhibit coordinated behavior, share knowledge and have long memories, said Rose.

“It’s a very sophisticated thing to do something for no purpose other than that it amuses you,” she said.”

“Killer whale groups, especially younger individuals, are known for their fads and idiosyncrasies.

In the Pacific Northwest, one group of killer whales suddenly got into the habit of carrying dead salmon around on their heads in 1987. The fad arose and spread widely among the group that summer.

The salmon hats craze began with adolescent orcas but then spread, said Rose.

“By the end everyone was wearing them, including the adults,” she said.

Then the fashion dropped out of style as quickly as it had begun.”