Sunday, April 7, 2019

Killer Whale Genetics Raise Inbreeding Questions

The NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center have discovered that only about 26-76 whales in the Southern Resident population are breeding. Scientists are concerned since this endangered species is compromising their survival rate with inbreeding. Inbreeding will cause this species to be less resistant to change and will eventually cause their numbers to decrease even more. This study has also found that their inbreeding could explain why many Southern Resident calves die at birth. Usually different species of whales maintain their diversity when they join other family groups. However, the Southern Resident population does not follow this pattern. When whales of this species are born, they stay with their mothers and families for the rest of their lives. After analysis, scientists have found that two males have fathered over half of their population since 1990. Scientists are still trying to figure out why this species has a higher rate of inbreeding so that they can try to start to expose the whales to new mates.
It is extremely disappointing to see a species compromise their own survival rate and possibly increase their chances of extinction. Whales are not very easy to manipulate and the ocean is not the easiest place to work with. Most biology students understand the severe consequences of inbreeding and this species is already experiencing some of them. Some scientists believe that if they are able to increase the salmon population, the whales will feel more comfortable to leave their original family groups and mate with other whales. I understand how this strategy may work, but I personally believe that we cannot change this species's natural tendency to stay with their own family groups. I do not think that we will be able to change their environment so much that we would be able to change their natural behavior.

No comments:

Post a Comment