This spring has been the best ever for Biggs Killer Whale sightings. There have been sightings almost every day this April! The mammal eating killer whales are taking advantage of the numerous sea lions that have arrived for the spring herring spawn.
When I started watching whales in the Salish Sea 15 years ago we would encounter Biggs Killer Whales just a few times a month. Now we view Biggs Killer Whales almost as frequently as the fish eating Southern Resident Killer Whales. Watching multiple families of Biggs Killer Whales socializing, hunting and feasting has made for a very special spring. It has been interesting to watch the matriarchs from different pods travel together while their kids all socialize and hunt together.
Matriarchal Marine Mammal
Killer Whales are one of a few species that are matriarchal. Matriarchy is a form of socialorganization in which the mother or oldest female heads the family. Both Biggs Killer Whales and the Southern Resident Killer Whales are matriarchal although not all matriarchal societies are the same.
Southern Resident families live in a complex matriarchal society. Sons and daughters stay with their mother throughout heir lives- even after they have offspring of their own. These bonds remain strong between siblings even after the mother? has died.
Biggs Killer Whales also live in complex matriarchal society but we will often see the matriarchs eldest offspring disperse and travel separately. It’s thought that the Biggs disperse to keep the family size small so they don’t lose their element of surprise while hunting. Even though a matriline often splits and elder females start their own families, they will still socialize and frequently travel with the rest of their original family. There are some areas in the world where we find humans living in matriarchal societies. There are also quite a few other animals that live in matriarchal societies including Lions, Elephants, Honey Bees, Spotted Hyenas, Meercats and Bonobos. Without these mother role models these species wouldn’t thrive and be here today.
Happy Mothers Day!
Simon Pidcock is Head Captain and owner of Ocean Ecoventures.