Whole Southern Resident Community Co-operates to Survive

Killer Whales in the Wild

By Chris Lydgate ’90 on June 22, 2016 09:21 AM

In the wine-dark waters of the San Juan Islands, a band of killer whales is fighting for survival.

Loss of habitat, human meddling, and intense competition for chinook salmon, its main source of food, have put severe pressure on these creatures. This band, known as the Southern Residents, is now smaller than any other group of resident killer whales, which live in communities scattered along the cold coastal waters of the North Pacific.

There are, in fact, just 81 whales left.

But the Southern Residents aren’t giving up without a struggle, according to bio majorMichael Weiss ’16. On the contrary, they have responded by rewiring their complex social structure to hunt for chinook more aggressively by working together.

“This is a new dimension of killer whale society that people hadn’t known about before,” says Michael, who won the…

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