A Group of Orca Outcasts Is Now Dominating an Entire Sea

“Killer whales that feast on seals and hunt in small packs are thriving while their widely beloved siblings are dying out.”

Fascinating article in the Atlantic about killer whale populations in Canada. Resident vs. transient whales, a short (and heart-breaking) history of capturing killer whales for aquarium exhibits (“children asked why the whales were crying”), and the work of marine biologists (and local populations) getting to know resident orcas as individuals.


Mortal turkey combat

While residents have to work together to hunt salmon, salmon don’t fight back. For the transients, Hafey said, every meal is a potential death match: “It’s as if every time you opened the fridge you had to have mortal combat with a turkey to get a sandwich.”

[...] residents and transients have lived separate lives for at least a quarter-million years. They generally do their best to avoid each other, and they don’t even speak the same language—the patterns and sounds they use to communicate are completely different. Over time, each type has established cultural traditions that are passed from generation to generation. While transients’ small groups enable them to hunt more quietly and effectively, residents’ large extended families allow them to work together to locate and forage for fish. Biology isn’t destiny, but for orcas, food sources might be.