Is an apex predator like a killer whale capable of a fear reaction as an adult?

Let’s say a full grown 8 meter long killer whale meets a time displaced 16 meter long whale eating whale.

If the larger whale threatens it does it flee in fear or attack… or what?

Wiki on the whale eating whale. Dig the name.

Well, I am!

Don’t grizzly bears often back down from a confrontation?

Being big and bad doesn’t mean you cease to have a survival instinct. I’m sure if the biggest baddest killer whale was cruising along and suddenly Cthulhu came up from beneath it, it would scream in terror just like everything else.

Well… what is a “survival instinct” to a creature so dominant it will never have met any creature that could remotely threaten it physically during the vast majority of it’s life. How are we sure it even knows how to run away?

You assume it was always that big? :dubious:

Wouldn’t the killer whale *not *be an apex predator in this scenario, by definition ?

Semantic fun aside, why wouldn’t apex predators experience fear, fight-or-flight and survival instincts just like everyone else ? Just because you’re not actively hunted doesn’t mean you’re immortal. Predators might be all burly, violent and toothy ; but the wolf is still in a world of hurt when the sheep are cornered and turn around. Or, metaphors aside, I’ve certainly seen (on TV) lions get out of the way of a gnu stampede with a certain amount of spring in their step ;).
We humans are pretty darn apex-y ourselves, when we set our big brains to it, but we have been known to get scared pantsless every now and then. Finally, and again just like us, if anything else they still have their own brethren (and parents. And probably kids, too) to look out for.

Other mammalian apex predators with a documented fear response:
[li]Big Cats (lion, tiger, jaguar, ect)[/li][li]Bears (polar, brown, black, ect)[/li][li]Wolves[/li][li]Hyenas[/li][li]Humans[/li][/ul]
Killer Whales are fairly intelligent with a complex social hierarchy. It’s hard to be social if you have no concept of backing down from a fight.Even hyper-aggressive, solitary animals like wolverines understand running away if you’re losing.

Even if adults are safe from predators, it wouldn’t be the case for juveniles. Killer whales attack young sperm whales, for instance. So fear could still be useful.

I don’t know if juvenile killer whales have predators, though.

The OP might have a point in that a killer whale on first encountering the time displaced whale killer would not have any reason to fear it, since it would only ever have encountered Baleen whales.

Fear helps you stay alive. While there may be some situations where a fearless animal got to eat when a fearful animal didn’t, on the whole fearful creatures live to see the next day. Evolution would tend to select for creatures that, while not necessarily cowardly, would be able to identify and avoid risky situations. Being apex doesn’t necessarily change that.

Where that might fall through is when you present the creature with a situation it can’t identify as a risky one, but that’s true of any creature, even humans. But “that big SOB’s coming at me with its mouth open!” is a pretty clear signal.

Edit: also, even if an ecosystem stabilized such that a particular species never had anything try to attack or eat it for millions of years, it wouldn’t necessarily lose that fear response unless it became advantageous on a species level to do so. At best it would become vestigial, but still present.

Supposedly this was an issue during the early days of whaling-- if the sperm and right whales had a fear reaction, they certainly didn’t for hairless apes in boats wielding pointy sticks. More often than not, they’d even come out and investigate the whale boats instead of fleeing in terror. As the industry progressed, the whales got more evasive as the whales either got wise to human aggression or the more fearless ones got preferentially killed.

I worked with dolphins in the mid-1980’s, and knew various dolphin trainers and read books that some of them wrote.

It was a fairly standard belief among the trainers that orcas, as top predators, have no fear instinct. (I always found that a bit far-fetched, for the same reasons and various posts above have suggested.)

I saw a film of a captive orca being transported across town from one facility to another, by helicopter. The whale was carried in a large canvas sling, hanging below the helicopter. All the people involved in this felt confident that the whale had no fear during this event. Apparently the whale never fought or resisted at any time. (If it did, that transfer simply would not have happened. Killer whales, like gorillas, don’t do anything they don’t want to do. But they are surprisingly docile and cooperative, at least the tamed ones are.)

It is generally understood that simply being put in a sling and hoisted out of the water is a high-anxiety situation for a marine mammal – in particular, being out of and away from the water. So I personally would more readily expect that the whale was scared shitless.

(Unless it’s actually true that they lack a fear response.)

I’ve always liked Terry Pratchett’s way of putting it: every creature recognizes four classes of things.

[li]Things to eat.[/li][li]Things to mate with.[/li][li]Things to run away from.[/li][li]Rocks.[/li][/ol]

There is a class of animals which clearly have no fear response to possible predation – those which evolved on islands or other isolated areas where there were no predators.

I’m not sure if that’s truly a lack of fear of possible predation, or simply a failure to recognize a given predator.

I am slightly irritated by the Huffpost link twice referring to the predatory whale as a “giant whale,” when it turns out to have been about the same size as a modern Sperm whale.

This is the case with a lot of animals, many now extinct.

The current thought is that humans may have done in the megafauna of the Americas when humans frst reached the continents. While the animal may have recognized wolves etc. as something to avoid, it did not recognized that danger in humans and was easy to approach and kill.

Darwin related how birds on the galapaos did not know about humans, and how birds would land on a sailor’s arm and try to drink from the pitcher while he was pouring water. A visitor a few years later saw a boy sitting by a pond hitting birds with a stick - by then, they needed a 6-foot stick because the birds were a bit skittish of humans - a learned response.

(I think one discussion I saw said there was a “skittish” gene; too skittish, always running away instead of eating. Not skittish enough? Dead. So the less skittish dominated until humans arrived, then it was adapt or die.

Supposedly even grizzlies ahve learned to fear humans when they are not cornered or accidentally close.

While much of the thread talks to whales, I believe all land predators in grassy/forrested areas have a well developed fear response to wildfires. Fire seems to be an equal opportunity destroyer of animals, predator/prey, for the last million or so years.
There are some studies and much anecdotal testimony that earthquakes affect many animals to include mammals, fish, insects, reptiles, and birds.

At least one fatal attack on Orcas by a shark has been documented, so they may not be completely fearless. The ocean is a deep and mysterious environment, I’m not certain that we can rule out something higher up the food chain.

We should send James Cameron down there to check things out. I suggest a duration of two years so that we can be more certain.