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.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

An Amica White Rock resident receives the COVID-19 vaccine during a Jan. 15, 2021 clinic. (Tracy Holmes photo)
PHOTOS: South Surrey seniors grateful for ‘freedom’ of COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccination clinics at Fraser Health long-term and assisted-living sites were to wrap up Jan. 15

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)
Surrey city councillors complain not enough public input in committees

City has gone ‘exactly the opposite direction,’ Councillor Brenda Locke charges

A Transit Police officer and another driver were injured on Nov. 4 in a traffic crash while the officer was responding to another officers call for help catching a man who escaped custody. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating Surrey crash that injured transit cop, another driver

Crash happened 11 p.m. Nov. 4, at 128th Street and 93rd Avenue in Cedar Hills

Friends and family of murder victim Paul Prestbakmo wore memorial masks outside Surrey Provincial Court Jan. 14, 2021. (From left) Family friend Tyler Whitley, sister Angela Prestbakmo, childhood friend Jimmy Slater, brother Steve Prestbakmo, Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Roxanne Charles and sister Liz Prestbakmo. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Two accused in 2019 South Surrey murder were ‘really angry,’ pacing at party: witness

‘We had this really strong gut feeling that something was really wrong’

Semiahmoo Rock
Record-setting 10 Semiahmoo Rock players selected in B.C. junior lacrosse draft

Kaleb Borg is the highest Rock player selected, going in the second round to the Coquitlam Adanacs

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read