Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pod feeding

kw: observations, musings, wildlife, whales

I watched the PBS Nature program on Humpback whales earlier this evening. I've been thinking ever since. In a segment on feeding behavior in Alaskan waters, their cooperative hunting technique was shown: about ten whales descend beneath a shoal of herring, and station themselves in a loose ring. One of them swims in a big circle blowing bubbles, which cause the herring to clump together and rise toward the surface. The whales communicate the whole time, and at some signal, all rise through the bubble net and swallow lots of herring. They do this over and over, eventually devouring almost the entire shoal, perhaps a few tons of little fish.

As a young person in the heyday of the "everything animals do is instinct" school of animal behavior, I was not satisfied with the reigning paradigm. I am even more convinced now that animals of all kinds learn from one another and from their environment. While it has been posited that some whales may exceed human intelligence, I don't think we can know, because their intelligence is of such a different kind than ours.

I have taken many IQ tests. All require the subject (me) to "do your own work". We need a different kind of intelligence test, in which the subject is required to obtain all answers from others, and the efficiency and speed of doing so determines the score. Oh, yeah, we have such a test; it is called being a middle manager or supervisor! Passing grades are rewarded with continued employment; superior grades garner promotions. Suffice it to say that I tried my hand as a supervisor, and asked to be relieved of such duty and return to "staff". I would not score very high on a networking-intelligence test, I suppose. (I am glad a big company is willing to pay me for what I can do!) Those whales, along with other cooperative hunters such as wolves, would score pretty high.

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