In British Columbia, Canada, scientists have observed for the first time how a male orca drowned a young of the same species in order to mate with his mother. According to CBC News, the event took place off the coast of Vancouver Island on December 2, 2016, but has only recently been published by Scientific Reports.
Jared Towers and his colleagues detected some strange calls from orcas, and tracked them down. The team observed two groups of animals, one consisting of a killer whale along with her offspring, and the other of a 32-year-old male with his 46-year-old mother.
When both groups came into interaction, the researchers thought that the orcas had found a prey, but then they realized that a newborn orca “did not return completely to the surface”. Later, they observed the male passing near the boat with “the baby hanging from his mouth”. it turned out that the male had grabbed the baby and dragged it away from his mother. After this, he was kept below the surface until drowned. “We were really horrified and fascinated,” added Jared Towers, recalling the scene.
Researchers believe that the baby was not killed as a prey, but it was an example of the so-called sexually selected behavior: the 32-year-old male murdered him in order to mate with her mother. Infanticide occurs among mammals, for example, among lions. However, it is the first documented case between killer whales.
In addition, according to the scientists, the case observed in Canada questions the belief that female killer whales are selective with respect to males. According to Towers, “we are now beginning to think that it is very likely that females do not have many options when it comes to reproducing.”