Killer whales attack boats near Spain. Scientists don’t know why

Killer whales have been attacking boats recently, and scientists are unsure of the cause. Credit: USAP Photo Library (CC BY NC ND 4.0)

This Thursday, the Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the Clean Water Act to wetlands, in a 5-4 vote. This could affect the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect certain types of wetlands, which help reduce the impacts of flooding by absorbing water, and also act as natural filters that make drinking water cleaner. Judge Brett Kavanaugh joined the three liberal court members in dissent, writing that the decision will have “significant implications for water quality and flood control across the United States.”

Additionally, earlier this month, three killer whales attacked a boat, sinking it. This is the third time an incident like this has occurred in the last three years, accompanied by a sharp increase in killer whales attacking boats near the Strait of Gibraltar. Scientists are unsure of the cause. One theory is that these attacks could be a fad, led by juvenile killer whales in the area, a behavior documented in this subpopulation of the dolphin family. They could also be a response to a potential bad encounter between boats and orcas in the area.

Science Friday’s Charles Bergquist chats with Sophie Bushwick, technology editor for Scientific American, about these and other stories from this week in science news, including a look at a hot summer El NiƱo, an amateur astronomer who discovered a new supernova and reduced waste issues by using recycled layers of concrete.

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