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Killer whales put their heads together for their next meal

In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, we get a glimpse into the intelligent group hunting patterns of killer whales -- and the escape of one very lucky seal.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Finally tonight, we share a story that caught our eye.

    You have probably heard of animals such as wolves hunting in packs, but what about killer whales?

    Science producer Nsikan Akpan shows us what one lucky group of adventure travelers to Antarctica witnessed.

  • Nsikan Akpan:

    On a recent trip along the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, passengers on an adventure cruise encountered a rare bout of mortal combat, four orcas systematically hunting a crabeater seal on an ice floe.

    The whales’ spy-hopped and then created waves to dislodge the seal into the water. After each successive wave, the seal struggled again and again to scoot back to safety.

    Pack hunting is regarded as a highly intelligent behavior, because it requires large degrees of coordination and cooperation. The behavior was first witnessed in orcas in 1979, but since then has been primarily observed in the Antarctic, and not elsewhere.

    On January 2, these orcas displayed this intelligence in spades.

  • Sheri Bluestein:

    After several attempts of trying to wash the crabeater seal off of the ice floe, the killer whales tried to crack the ice into smaller pieces.

  • Nsikan Akpan:

    Soon, the seal’s safe zone grew too small, and it dashed toward another ice floe. Round two. This time, three whales approach, and one waits, jaws ready.

    But this time, while their whales’ dorsal fins were turned, the seal spotted an opening and scooted away to safety.

  • Sheri Bluestein:

    The group decided to name the seal Kevin, and Kevin got away, so it was good news for all of us.

  • Nsikan Akpan:

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Nsikan Akpan.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Almost another Broadway show. Wow.

Listen to this Segment

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