J50-Scarlet

Mama Slick and calf Scarlet | Credit: NOAA Fisheries, Vancouver Aquarium (Taken by UAV at 90 feet above pair within guidelines outlined in NMFS research permit and FAA flight authorization)
Mama Slick with her Calf Scarlet | Credit: NOAA Fisheries, Vancouver Aquarium (Taken by UAV at 90 feet above pair within guidelines outlined in NMFS research permit and FAA flight authorization)

While we at SpringTide love ALL the southern resident killer whales, we would be lying if we said we didn’t have favourites. In particular, our crew is very fond of one J-Pod’s newest members J50. J50 is a baby girl; she was born December 30th , 2014. Her mom is J16 commonly known as “Slick”. When J50 surfaced for the first time on December 30th , she had cuts all around her body. Once researchers got good pictures they discovered that the cuts they were seeing were actually teeth marks from another killer whale! The researchers then determined that likely what had happened was that while Slick was in labour her baby, J50, got stuck on the way out and another killer whale came and grabbed a hold of J50, by biting her, and pulled the her out. Since J50 got the cuts so early in life she still carries the scars, which make her very easy to recognize. For that reason she earned the adoptive name “Scarlet”.

Scarlet was Slick’s sixth baby. In fact, Slick broke the record for oldest reproducing southern resident female killer whale as she was 43 years old when she had J50. Potentially it was her old age that made Scarlet’s birth difficult. For a long time whale researchers, such as Ken Balcomb, ED of the Centre for Whale Research, had suspected that during difficult births, other females would act as a “midwife”. After seeing the cuts on J50, this incident just helped him prove this may be the case.

Assisting in the delivery of babies is just one of the many ways in which female killer whales help each other out. Our southern resident killer whales are also famous for babysitting the babies so that the moms can take a much deserved break!

Despite Scarlet’s rough start, she is doing very well! She is often seen swimming with her big brother J26, “Mike”. Or else she’s breaching nonstop alongside her two big sisters J36 “Alki” and J42 “Echo”.  And who knows maybe someday Scarlet will be a midwife to her two sisters!

Izzy
SpringTide Marine Naturalist