Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Killer Whales and Potlucks

A few days ago I saw a news item on the CBC news about the decline in killer whale pods off the coast of British Columbia.  Scientists were seeing a far smaller number of whales in the pods, as well as less vocalizing, and were trying to figure out why.

One possible factor was the lack of chinook salmon this year, which is the preferred dinner dish for killer whales. Perhaps the whales were eating in smaller groups because there wasn't as much to go around, and vocalizing less because they didn't want to signal to other killer whales that there was food available.

The scientist interviewed on the CBC noted that killer whales always eat together - "perhaps because they consider it rude to eat alone", he said, somewhat in jest. That got me thinking about the connection between their behaviour and ours.

Maybe they're eating together just to be polite - who knows? - but more likely for the maintenance of their own health and well-being.  There is a considerable amount of research out there that shows families that eat together are happier and healthier, and if it's true for us, it most likely is for them.

Sharing a meal is something that unites communities. It's hard to stay angry at someone you've had supper with. Breaking bread with another person establishes an emotional bond.

That's why potlucks and communal meals are so important in cohousing communities. Like the killer whales, we know it's better to eat together, and not just because we think it's rude to eat alone.


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