Oldest Southern Resident killer whale considered dead

Killer whale J2 - Granny - presumed dead
Oldest southern resident orca 'Granny' has died, whale researchers say
Author

04 January, 2017

Tracking Granny and other older female killer whales has revealed their essential role inside the family group.

J2 was last spotted on October 12 in the Haro Strait, was considered missing by the end of the year, and is now presumed dead to unknown causes.

"She is one of only a few "resident" whales for which we do not know the precise age because she was born long before our study began", Balcomb said in the announcement.

A 1987 published study estimated that J2 was born in 1911, putting her age at 105. Her official name was J2. But already too old for the park, she was released, Jim Algar wrote for Tech Times.

The total southern resident killer whale population stands at 78.

Said Balcomb to BBC News: "In recent years her world has changed dramatically with dwindling salmon stocks and increases in shipping, threatening the survival of this incredible population".

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In a 2014 file photo, endangered orcas from the J-pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whales.

Granny was first spotted in 1971 when it was estimated to be 60 years old.

"Perhaps other dedicated whale-watchers have seen her since then, but by year's end she is officially missing from the SRKW population, and with regret we now consider her deceased", he wrote on Saturday in a tribute to the orca. "She was still leading that group". The killer whale matriarch of J-pod is now presumed dead.

"It was inevitable that this day was going to come but it is very sad news and a further blow to this population", Darren Croft, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom who has studied Granny and other older female orcas, told BBC News.

While researchers who spent decades identifying Granny's distinct dorsal fin shape mourn her loss, they have culled years of valuable data and information after observing her, including information on the unusual reproductive cycles of orcas.


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