Inside the mind of a killer whale: A Q+A with the neuroscientist from ‘Blackfish’

The Raptor Lab

Two weeks ago, I saw ‘Blackfish’, the fascinating new documentary about killer whales in captivity. Here’s the trailer.

I enjoyed the movie, but it left me with questions. A lot of questions. Neuroscience questions. What makes whales different from other animals? How do whales perceive humans? What did the filmmakers mean when they said that killer whales have a wide range of emotions? How smart are these animals, really?

Read the interview in French here.

So I called up Lori Marino, a neuroscientist prominently featured in ‘Blackfish’, and asked her to satiate my curiosity.


In this interview, Marino and I switch around between referring to whales, killer whales, orcas, and cetaceans. For the record, cetaceans = an order of marine mammals. Whales are cetaceans. So are as dolphins and porpoises. Killer whales (a.k.a. orcas or blackfish) are a type of cetacean.

You’re currently a professor of cetacean neuroscience at…

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