Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Fundraising
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent bycatch
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Stop whaling
We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...

It’s Time To Breach The Snake River Dams

The Snake River dams were controversial even before they were built.  While they were still...
Save the whale. Save the world.

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins, and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Nat Geo for Disney+ Luis Lamar

Five Facts About Orcas

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are one of the most recognizable and popular species...
Alexi Archer cropped

Meet the 2022 Interns: Alexi Archer

I am thrilled to welcome Alexi to WDC as the newest member of our Marine...
Saya

Meet the 2022 Interns: Saya Butani

I'm happy to welcome the newest member of the WDC team, Saya Butani, who is...
Block Island wind credit: Regina Asutis-Silvia

Offshore Wind: Don’t Blow It

Recently, new areas were added to the growing list of potential sites for offshore wind...
Sierra

Meet the 2022 Interns: Sierra Osborne

I'm delighted to introduce WDC's Conservation Education intern for Summer 2022, Sierra Osborne! Without hesitation,...

J50 is a girl!

The second sighting of the newest Southern Resident, J50, has revealed that this little one is a girl!  While male orcas are easily distinguishable by their towering dorsal fins, this identifying trait does not start to grow until the boys hit their teens, and it can be hard to tell juvenile males from the females in a pod.  It can be even harder with babies, and sometimes years go by before researchers can identify the gender of a new member of the population. 

Male and female orcas have different pigmentation patterns on their ventral sides (their bellies), making it easy to tell them apart if you can get a look when they breach or roll over.  Luckily, during this second encounter, J50 gave researchers an excellent look at her belly and distinct female pattern – identifying her as a girl!

different pigmentation patterns in orcas

Image adapted from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Recovery Plan

Females are vitally important to endangered species because of their potential to contribute even more members to the population.  In her lifetime, a female orca may give birth to 4-6 babies, adding that many more individuals to a group that is in need of recovery, and making those population numbers go up instead of down.  Yes, the males have a role to play as well, but it’s the females that are truly important in the development, growth, and survival of offspring, adding new members to endangered populations.  This is one of the reasons why Rhapsody’s recent death was such a hard blow to the Southern Residents.

Female orcas are vital for their role in family groups as well as their ability to bear young.  Matriarchs pass along knowledge and foraging specializations, helping in the survival of the entire community.  Orcas are one of the few known species (besides humans) that live past their reproductive age.  Older females help to raise young and are important reservoirs of information – they know where and how to hunt, what to eat, different vocalizations, and who to avoid; they pass this information on to younger members of the population.  Females play an important role in maintaining the cohesion of the entire community and ensuring their survival.

These family dynamics are part of the reason why researchers are still unsure who J50’s mother actually is – it’s not unusual for the grandmother or another family member to babysit, especially if the mother is in need of a break.  They need more time and more observations to figure out how J50, Slick, and Alki are related, but so far she’s looking healthy and energetic – she is definitely being well-cared for by her family!

You can help us ensure that J50 grows up healthy and well-fed: sign our letter of support for removing the Klamath River dams.  Southern Residents need salmon to survive, and salmon need undammed rivers – don’t let orcas be dammed!