GARY SUTTON PHOTO                                The attack involved an adult male, his mother, and an un-related infant orca.

GARY SUTTON PHOTO The attack involved an adult male, his mother, and an un-related infant orca.

B.C. Scientists witness first-ever documented killer whale infanticide

“It’s horrifying and fascinating at the same time.”

B.C. Scientists have published a scientific report which details the never-before-seen behaviour of Orcas deliberately killing a baby of their own species.

Jared Towers, Executive Director at North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association, along with his colleagues Muirel Muriel Hallé and Gary Sutton witnessed the attack which happened in Johnstone Strait between Port McNeill and Sointula on Dec. 2 2016.

Towers was alerted to strange vocalizations, which were picked up by OrcaLab’s hydrophone station, and was able to locate the whales prior to the attack.

“It’s the world first killer whale infanticide observed and the first time it’s been committed by a male and his mom outside of humans,” said Towers, who explained he and his collegues watched two orcas, an adult male and his mother, kill the infant of another non-related orca.

“It was not the kind of thing you can un-see, the image of the whales killing and passing around the dead baby are engraved in my mind,” said Towers, adding “It’s horrifying and fascinating at the same time.”

Towers explained there is strong evidence to suggest that this behaviour was conducted not only to remove progeny of a competing male from the gene pool but also to force the infant’s mother into a sexually receptive state, which would also provide a mating opportunity for the adult male.

“Sexual conflict such as infanticide drives selection which means it can tell us a lot about why a species or population has evolved the way it has,” said Towers, adding that this incidents demonstrates that, “It’s quite likely that the mating strategies employed by killer whales are different than we previously thought.”

After a year of working on the research regarding the incident, which was published in the journal Nature this week, Towers said he feels good to finally be able to share it with the public and scientific community.

“It’s kind of a dark story and I hate to see dead baby killer whales – they are the cutest animal on the planet,” said Towers, adding “It’s good to share this but is a reminder of how cruel nature can be.”

 

JARED TOWERS PHOTO                                The adult male with the tail of the baby in his mouth.

JARED TOWERS PHOTO The adult male with the tail of the baby in his mouth.

JARED TOWERS PHOTO                                The whales photographed prior to the attack.

JARED TOWERS PHOTO The whales photographed prior to the attack.

Just Posted

Crews are battling a fire near Ashcroft. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Crews battling grass fire above CP tracks near Ashcroft

Fire started around 9:30 a.m. and is moving through sagebrush away from town

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

The Cariboo Regional District. (Angie Mindus photo)
Industrial park slated for Watch Lake Road

Building company Omnitek to start building new plant on 32-acre site

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen, with the 100 Mile House RCMP. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
14-year-old boy killed in serious ATV crash near 100 Mile House

Youth was travelling with a group of peers when the incident occurred last Friday

Relief is coming for B.C.’s struggling tourism sector. (NEWS file photo)
B.C. officials set to announce more support for tourism sector hit hard by pandemic

Non-essential travel is restricted between three regional zones in B.C. until at least May 24

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Nathalie Emmanuel, left, and Vin Diesel in a scene from “F9.” (Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures via AP)
The blockbuster movie is making a comeback this summer

Excitement in the industry is growing again for a return to a big-screen normal

Most Read