An orca mother travels alongside her son. Older orca females past their reproductive years often lead their pods on hunts. Photo Credit: David Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research

Animals The World 8. September 2023

Older Orca Moms Live to Protect Their Boys

A recent study suggests that aging mother orcas may live past their reproductive years in order to help protect their male offspring.

“Just as in humans, it seems that older female whales play a vital role in their societies – using their knowledge and experience to provide benefits including finding food and resolving conflict,” says Darren Croft, a behavioral ecologist from the University of Exeter.

According to the study, male orcas had less damage on their dorsal fins when an older mother was nearby to protect them. The study went on to show that either having no mother around at all or having a younger mother around resulted in more scarring on male orca fins. This may suggest that orca mothers who have already passed through menopause “have more time and more interest [for protecting their offspring]” says Deborah Giles, science and research director of the nonprofit Wild Orca.

Smithsonian Magazine

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