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 whales photographed prior to the attack.

Just Posted

Metchosin inmate sentenced to 12 months in jail for escaping custody

Sentence to be served concurrent to a life sentence he was already serving

Sooke jumps on board to ban use of rat poison

City staff will educate residents on harmful effects of rodenticides

Sooke RCMP searching for two people, reported missing on Sept. 10

Alannah Brooke Logan, 20, and Beau Richard Santuccione, 32, last seen on Otter Point Road

Victoria man plans 30-hour walk to raise funds for vulnerable youth

Take a Hike engages youth in intensive, clinical counselling and outdoor experiential learning

West Shore pool stays closed for 2020

Juan de Fuca Recreation centre swimming could return in 2021

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Most Read