A recent study conducted by scientists on killer whales in the North Pacific has shed light on the sacrifices that mother orcas make for their sons. The research, published in the journal Current Biology, has shown that female killer whales face a significant reduction in their chances of reproducing once they rear a son.
Mothers Sacrifice Their Own Food and Energy
According to University of Exeter’s Prof Darren Croft, mother killer whales sacrifice their own food and energy to feed their sons, which compromises their health and reduces their ability to reproduce and raise other children.
The Complex Social Lives of Killer Whales
Orcas are known for their strong family bonds, with female offspring becoming independent once they grow up while male offspring remain dependent on their mothers and share the food caught by their matriarchs. This study provides new insight into the family lives of these amazing animals and their social dynamics.
High Cost to Keep Sons Alive
University of Exeter and Centre for Whale Research’s Dr Michael Weiss states that their previous research has shown that sons have a higher chance of survival if their mother is around. The new study confirms that this help comes at a high cost to the mother in terms of her future reproduction.
Male Orcas Remain Dependent on Mothers
The scientists had already discovered that mother and son killer whales “hang out” together even after the male offspring reaches adulthood. They will even feed their sons salmon they catch, while adult female offspring hunt independently.
Important Role of Male Orcas in Reproduction
Prof Croft explains that if a mother can rear her son to become a big male in the population, he will sire much of the next generation. This highlights the important role that male orcas play in reproduction and the sacrifices that their mothers make to ensure their survival.