Marine biologist Nancy Blake told Discovery News that Tilikum could have acted out for similar reasons.
"He was used a lot [by SeaWorld] for mating, and could have even been enacting a mating behavior during the incident," explained Blake, a leading expert on killer whales who runs California's Monterey Bay Whale Watch.
According to GREMM, a Quebec-based marine mammal research and education group, intense competition may take place between male whales before mating. Males and females may also challenge each other, with females sometimes changing their diving behavior during the process.
Captured near Iceland in November 1983, Tilikum "was housed in small tanks from the beginning," said Blake. SeaWorld Orlando acquired the whale in January 1992, and put him in a breeding program shortly thereafter.
Over the years, Tilikum has sired at least 17 calves, 10 of which are still alive, making him the most successful orca father in captivity. He is also the only captive killer whale grandfather.
His captivity, frequent breeding and the fact that Tilikum was caught in the wild could all have contributed to Wednesday's fatality, Blake believes.