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Inspiring role models from mother nature!

Are these orca-fighting, seal-saving good Samaritans really just in it for themselves?

Humpback whales use their superpowers for good. Recent observations show how they deliberately interfere with attacking killer whales to help others in distress. They don’t just defend their own babies or close relatives. They intervene on behalf of other species—a gray whale calf with its mother, a seal hauled out on an ice floe, even an ocean sunfish. Humpbacks act to improve the welfare of others; the classic definition of altruism.

Killer whales recognize the danger. When confronted by a ferociously bellowing mob of adult humpbacks, killer whales will eventually flee. Humpbacks usually work in pairs to fend off killer whales, but lone humpbacks have been observed taking on 10 or more individuals. These battles can be hard won. Humpbacks sometimes spend hours mobbing killer whales, never stopping to rest and feed.

Intriguingly, humpbacks don’t just stumble upon killer whale attacks. They race toward them like firefighters into burning buildings. And like these brave rescue workers, humpbacks don’t know who is in danger until they get there. That’s because the sound that alerts them to an attack isn’t the plaintive voice of the victim. It’s the excited calls of the perpetrators.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-humpback-whales-teach-us-compassion-180964545/#zZTT9wwgSmJ7ik62.99
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Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-humpback-whales-teach-us-compassion-180964545/#zZTT9wwgSmJ7ik62.99 Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

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