Killer Whales, Humans Have Much in Common

Killer Whales in the Wild

May 30, 2016

We’re very different, but share the ability to adapt and innovate.

Humans and killer whales have so much in common that the latter are now serving as a model for our species by showing how ecology, culture and evolution reveal themselves in genomes.

Both killer whales, also called orcas, and humans are two of the world’s most cosmopolitan animals, given that both include subgroups that migrated and quickly diversified from an ancestral population likely due to climate change. The new study, published in Nature Communications, finds that such life histories can leave their mark in genes.

Our species is not closely related to orcas — toothed whales that are the largest species in the dolphin family — making the similarities all the more surprising.

“Both humans and killer whales have big brains and are able to master complex behaviors, and perhaps, most importantly, innovate new…

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