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New close-up footage of orcas gives fresh insights to behavior

Keeping tabs on orcas is an ongoing theme around these parts, but new close-up footage recently revealed to researchers that there is a great deal we don’t know about how they behave.

Researches recently used drones and underwater cameras to observe the southern resident orca J pod off the British Columbia coast, seeing far more than they ever could from a boat, reports The Seattle Times. What they discovered is that the orcas were more playful and affectionate than previously thought.

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The orcas would regularly rub against each other, with a baby amusingly nuzzling its mother by slapping its tail on the mother’s head in a similar bonding manner that people do (without the tail part, of course).

“The same way we hug our kids and hug our friends, touch furthers those bonds. That’s the power of touch, and here we have killer whales reminding us of that — who would have thought?” said professor at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries Department of Zoology Andrew Trites told The Seattle Times.

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They also observed a baby whale carrying a salmon around in her mouth for two days, an odd activity for a three month-old only feeding on her mother’s milk. Researchers aren’t clear if this is the result of teething or parroting the adult killer whales.

The research is part of an effort to explore whether southern orcas can eat a sufficient amount of Chinook salmon, as they are thinner on average and have been declining in population, at just 73.

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