Back in October 2014, Asha de Vos, a Sri Lankan marine biologist, took the stage at TEDGlobal to deliver a 6-minute speech called “Why you should care about whale poo.” She spoke passionately about the devastating effects 200 years of whaling had on global whale populations. She argued that these animals’ importance extends far beyond their charismatic beauty. Rather, as “ecosystem engineers,” she said whales play an important role in maintaining the health of Earth’s oceans.
For decades, there have been mysterious reports about humpback whales coming to the rescue when animals are being attacked by orcas (large black-and-white dolphins known as “killer whales“). But why would humpbacks spend energy risking their own safety to help others? Could this be an example of animals acting selflessly?