In the News....
Killer whales coddle their baby boys well into adulthood
After plying through photo-ID catalogues compiled by Fisheries and Oceans and the Center for Whale Research, researchers from the UK unearthed some embarrassing family history: Pacific coast killer whale males are huge momma’s boys. It’s not all bad as it turns out the bond between mother and son has a big impact on the lifespan of resident male orcas and subsequently the number of off-spring they may be able to sire during their prime years.
The study, led by Dr. Emma Foster from Exeter University found that males whose mother’s survived to post-reproductive age (the granny stage) were far more likely to survive themselves. For example, mortality rates can be up to 14-times higher for males over 30 that lose a post-reproductive mother compared to those who have their moms. Interestingly, the study found that the lifespan of a matriarch had little impact on the survival of her adult daughters while it clearly affected her sons. This led the authors to conclude that resident killer whales have evolved a prolonged post-menopausal life span in order to care for their sons and ultimately collect more grandchildren.
The specific ways in which moms support their sons is unknown but may included assistance with foraging and managing interactions with other whales. While the “how” remains a mystery, the benefits are clear: moms know what’s best for their boys and don’t encourage them to move out of the family basement.
Loquillilla (I12) with her two sons Quatsino (I47) and Zayas (I78)
Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard
A massive visitor to the Strait of Georgia
In September a massive fin whale cruised up the Strait of Georgia to Johnstone Strait. Fin whales are not uncommon along the BC coast but since they have a preference for the open waters of the central and northern coast, they are often unfamiliar to most British Columbians. You can imagine the surprise then when the BC Cetacean Sightings Network
(BCCSN) received a sighting of a fin whale off Nanaimo!
This is BCCSN’s the first report of a fin whale in the Strait of Georgia, but wasn’t the only sighting of this particular fin whale. In fact, what was likely the same animal that was spotted a few days later in Hoskyns Channel and then again outside of Telegraph Cove in Johnstone Strait.
As long as two full-sized school buses parked bumper to bumper, the sleek, streamlined fin whale is an impressive sight to see. While the fin whale may come in second to the blue whale in the size category, they are known as the “greyhounds of the sea,” capable of reaching speeds of nearly 50 kilometers per hour in quick bursts – that’s faster than any other baleen whale.
Help us learn more about fin whale distribution in B.C. – report your sightings online
or call 1-866-I-SAW-ONE . Learn more about fin whales and their identification here.
Photo: Meghan McKillop