I couldn’t see that anyone else had posted this, Wikie’s baby finally has a name; Keijo!
This is like the cutest thing ever. It’s from the gif-set I reblogged.
Taking its first steps, and after successfully doing so, the chick goes “Yay!”
It’s so freaking cute.
I’ve arrived back in (surprisingly sunny!) England so regular blogging can resume :)
To all who asked for photos etc. from my trip, I’ll start getting them up tomorrow because I am incredibly jet lagged right now and can’t function as a normal human being.
Edit: So I managed to hit 300 followers on this blog while I was gone. I guess the less I post the better eh ;) Thanks everyone, including all the new people :D
Midnightclub, what did you think about the calving intervals from this study versus SeaWorld’s? I’m no killer whale expert, so I’m trying to be fair in my assessment of SeaWorld’s possible overbreeding. The…
Well, this is going to be long.
First we have to take a look at how reproduction is regulated and define a few basic concepts. I’ll mostly focus on orcas here but this in general applies to all mammalian species with the exception of humans. We have successfully screwed up our own biology over such a long time that we can’t be compared to any species still living under conditions of natural selection. But of course themidnightclub had to make this comparison *sigh*
What we see in humans today is the result of a lifestyle that nature and evolution have never planned for our species. I don’t want to go into too much detail just giving a short quote and a source in case anyone wants to read further about this:
"Between the mid-19th century and the mid-20th century, the average age at menarche declined sharply and steadily among European girls from 17 to 13."
So no, having your period with 8 is not considered normal. Onset of puberty (which is not the same as having your first period!) with 8 might be considered normal NOWADAYS but it surely is not normal from an evolutionary point of view. We overfeed our children with sugar, fat and meat from animals that are drugged up to the eyeballs with growth hormones and then we start wondering why their bodies and their functions run riot.
But back to orcas.
Evolution has made sure that a female orca will only have a successful pregnancy when her body is ready for it. Everything else wouldn’t make sense. If females would regularly die because their bodies have to go through pregnancy without being ready the species would go extinct. The female body has several mechanisms to prevent a pregnancy if it is not ready yet. The female can temporarily stop cycling. If she is still cycling her body can prevent conception. And if conception takes place it can reject the embryo at a very early state. A female’s body can also get rid of a fetus later in pregnancy and it is a kind of self-protection in case that the female becomes sick or is starving and she can’t provide for two anymore.
What you also have to keep in mind is that the purpose of a female is to produce offspring. As many as possible so the continued existence of the species will be secured.
So how is it determined when a female body is ready for entering the reproductive stage for the first time or re-entering it after having previous offspring?
It is a wrong assumption that a body works after a set clock and when a certain age is reached it enters the state of sexual maturity. To say it in an easy (and not so scientific) way it is more that the female body is constantly going through a checklist to see if it is ready for entering the reproductive phase. The main things that are checked for are size (which would be length with orcas), nutritional status (weight and the presence of all necessary vitamins, trace elements and nutrients in general) and immune status (healthy or sick). If the necessary values for these parameters are met (as carefully designed by evolution) the female body enters the reproductive phase.
So now how to determine what is normal and what not.
With orcas the only sufficient data come from SRs and NRs. So Olesiuk found age of first birth 12-16 years with a mean of 14 years and calving intervals from 2-12 years with a mean of 5 years. Now this is taken as ‘normal’ and everyone is using it to bash SW’s breeding of orcas. What no one seems to take into account is that these two populations are living under less than ideal conditions. They are highly contaminated, they suffer from stress through increased human activity in their habitats and from severe recurring food shortages. So from a scientific point of view they are less than ideal for determining what’s ‘normal’. But alas, it’s the only data we have. What would make more sense now instead of bashing SW would be to compare the two sets of data to see what the true potential of killer whale reproduction is. Because that is what SW brings out in their whales. Just take a look at these whale’s life parameters. Their nutritional needs are always met and they get a steady supply of calories 24/7/365. Their health is monitored constantly and any illnesses are treated. These are two very important factors that determine how well a female can perform when it comes to reproduction. So you can say that concerning nutrition and health (I’m aware of captivity-related illnesses but these are treated and I’m more referring to things that wild whales have to deal with like all kinds of parasites) the orcas in captivity live closer to the optimum when it comes to requirements for reproduction. I’m not saying the orcas live good and happy lives in captivity I’m talking about mere bodily functions. So in my opinion there is no proof that SW breeds there whales too early or too often. Their whales breed earlier and more often than two wild populations that are living under less than optimal conditions that is true. But AGAIN, I want to emphasize that a female WON’T enter the reproductive phase if her body is NOT ready for reproduction. She has to be fit and has to meet the requirements for size, weight and health.
So there are the cases that are brought as proof of SW’s bad breeding programme. First Kalina who was the youngest orca and gave birth at 7 years. Yes, the age seems young but as I said age is not the deciding factor here. It is about how far the body is in its development and Kalina was huge. Here is a photo taken in 1991 when Kalina was 5 years old. She is second right and next to her (second left) is Kasatka. They are almost the same size. So from the point of body development it shouldn’t be a surprise that she was ready to reproduce.
Then there are the cases of Samoa, Gudrun and Taima. Samoa died during labor but the the actual cause of death was a fungus. She was approx. 12-14 years old and pregnant with her first calf. So how does her death relate to breeding too early and too often?
Gudrun was approx. 13 years at Taima’s birth and her calving intervals were 4 years and 2 years. What you have to keep in mind there is that Nyar was removed from her mother after a short time and even in wild orcas it is normal that the calving interval is shorter when the previous calf dies young. And as Gudrun wasn’t nursing Nyar anymore her body thought the calf had died. Gudrun died because she was unable to give birth to her third calf and it had to be removed by force. Birth complications like this can happen and are the reason why no birth is completely risk free. In this case the calf was in a wrong position which made it impossible for the mother to give birth.
Taima gave birth to her first calf at 9 years of age and had calving intervals of 3 years, 6 years and 3 years. She died from unterus prolapse after difficulties with the birth of her last calf. This also isn’t a proof of overbreeding. Uterus prolapse can and does also happen in wild whales.
So no, I don’t think that the claims of SW breeding their females too early and too often are substantiated because any female will only start to reproduce or continue to reproduce if she is physically capable of doing so.
And just one last comment to themidnightclub and the graph concerning PCBs. The sample size that was used there is not convincing. But the graph doesn’t speak against my theory. There are a three females between age 0 and 5 with moderate PCB levels. Shouldn’t be surprising as these animals had been mostly relying on their mother’s milk and didn’t accumulate too many PCBs through prey yet. Then there are two females between the age of 5 and 10 with enormous PCB levels and then there are two between 10 and 15 years that already show a huge reduction in PCB levels. So in my understanding it would be possible that these immature females already gave birth.
I read this and understand the arguments. I think you’re reaching to make the data match SeaWorld’s program (by using the earliest known wild calving cycles as the average or captivity’s ‘optimum conditions’ as acceptable to base baseline possible production off of when nowhere in the wild do the same optimal conditions exist and therefore cannot just be assumed as a perfectly natural ‘optimal’ baseline) but I also think it’s largely a matter of opinion because of the relative dearth of research and its being focused on one group of whales, the variables that go into monitoring wild whales’ conception patterns and the varied interpretations of things like the PCB levels (I think Midnightclub made a very reasonable point about PCB reduction/phantom neonates.) Also I think Kalina and Taima still stand as cautionary tales about the breeding program but I agree that Samoa’s case isn’t a case of overbreeding. I just have a few things to add and then I’ll let it go.
Their nutritional needs are always met and they get a steady supply of calories 24/7/365. Their health is monitored constantly and any illnesses are treated. These are two very important factors that determine how well a female can perform when it comes to reproduction. So you can say that concerning nutrition and health (I’m aware of captivity-related illnesses but these are treated and I’m more referring to things that wild whales have to deal with like all kinds of parasites) the orcas in captivity live closer to the optimum when it comes to requirements for reproduction.
So in my opinion there is no proof that SW breeds there whales too early or too often. Their whales breed earlier and more often than two wild populations that are living under less than optimal conditions that is true. But AGAIN, I want to emphasize that a female WON’T enter the reproductive phase if her body is NOT ready for reproduction. She has to be fit and has to meet the requirements for size, weight and health.
As far as the female body thing, SeaWorld gives its female whales progesterone to control their cycles and induce ovulation at convenient times for AI/breeding, just saying. We don’t know how much they’re letting the whales’ bodies naturally ‘decide’ when to ovulate. And further, quite a few of their whales are reproductively challenged, so the ‘optimal conditions’ are helping them out at all. Plus captivity can cause a lot of stress which has repercussions for the whales’ health as well, so again, not optimal.
And as far as captivity bringing on the optimal conditions for breeding and therefore comparatively higher/earlier (but should still be considered normal) offspring production than SRs/NRs, which wild whale population is living under comparably ‘optimal’ conditions of captivity? Is any wild population having it’s nutritional needs met 24/7/365 in a pollution free environment? Therefore SeaWorld’s numbers should be higher across the board compared to every population of wild whales and just higher than wild whales full stop. And so it is in fact fair to say they’re breeding earlier and more often at SeaWorld (as you yourself did). And with cases like Taima, with a prolapsed uterus at age 20, we see that maybe it’s not normal or healthy, just because she could have that many babies, it was hard on her body. (Even if uterine prolapse happens in the wild, does it happen to 20-year-olds? It’s usually associated with older people and so that’s probably also the case in wild whales. Unless you know of a 20yo whale with uterine prolapse, then I don’t think you can say it happens in the wild.)
I think this is such an involved issue with so many variables we’re going to have to agree to disagree, but I appreciate your interpretation, as it’s probably more educated than mine, and it’s given me a lot to think about.
Yes, what I want to say is that the conditions in captivity enable the whales to start reproducing at the earliest time point that nature has planned for them (when they meet the requirements for size, weight and health in order to go through pregnancy, birth and lactation without too much risk of getting harmed).
What you can do with progesterone is timing the start of a new cycle. Say you have three females and all are cycling at different times. You treat them with progesterone (which is a pregnancy hormone) for a few weeks and their cycle is stopped. The moment you discontinue the progesterone all females start cycling again and now their cycles are syncronized. But this only works if the female had been cycling before. So it can’t be used to just force a non-cycling female into cycling (I guess this is what you wanted to imply?).
I’m not sure I understand what you mean with ‘reproductively challenged’ (bear with me I’m not a native speeker). Do you mean that there are some females who so far failed to produce offspring? Well, good nutrition can’t miraculously heal all possible issues that can arise in the reproductive tract.
Of course the orcas are under quite a bit of stress in captivity but so far I would say that this has no impact on reproduction itself. You only see impacts when thanks to screwed up social settings and mother daughter separations some females reject their calves after birth. But again, this doesn’t have anything to do with them being physically able to reproduce.
With the wild populations I would say it could be difficult to find one that still lives under completely undisturbed conditions thanks to us humans screwing up this planet. My guess would be that maybe the orcas in places like Antarctica where human activity is minimal can live close to their natural potential. But unfortunately there is almost nothing known about these populations.
Taima’s prolapsed uterus could have so much more causes than overbreeding. A genetically caused weakness in connective tissue for example or the hard birth and labor with a calf in a bad position itself could have caused the prolapse if the female just has to push so hard that she pushes out the uterus as well. If this was a clear result of overbreeding we should see it in many more females that have more than four calves. In captivity alone that would be quite a couple but in the wild there are also quite a few females who had more than the average 4.6 calves that come from the literature. And Kalina’s death wasn’t related to breeding unless you know something that I don’t.
In my opinion this whole concept of SW’s bad breeding programme and overbreeding is lacking sufficient proof.
- SW can’t make an immature whale start cycling when her body is not ready
- when her body is ready she will start cycling
- when a female is cycling her instincts tell her to mate
- after birth and lactation a female will re-enter cycling when her body is ready for it
- when she is cycling she wants to mate
- obviously in captivity the whales find conditions that enable them to mature faster and also to recover faster from birth and lactation than their cousins in the wild
How is SW to blame for this? How can you claim that the whales breed unnaturally (I’m not talking about AI now) when nobody is messing with their bodily functions?
See, this is why I wasn’t excited after the court ruling. Japan isn’t going to stop whaling; they never are.
Ffs Japan, could you just not
1. SWF dolphin nursery
2. SWT dolphin petting pool
3. SWC & SWF beluga back tanks
4. SWT Shamu stadium (new DWS pool+UV)
5. SWF & SWC blue horizon back pools
Yes yes yes thank you. I have particular feelings about the nursery, ever since Griffith was there prior to Gertrude’s birth. I can’t believe hardly ever make a fuss about that thing.
Agreed; the dolphin nursery in particular. I also don’t really like how close it is to Manta, it always seems really noisy round there :/
SeaWorld workers discovered what appeared to be human remains on SeaWorld property on Friday, SeaWorld spokesman Brian Carter said.
"The remains were outside the perimeter fence but still on the property. Carter said the employees were doing work outside the fence when they discovered the remains."
If you notice me reblogging
- a repost
- stolen art
- false information
please let me know, you’re not rude or annoying and I actually do give a fuck and I will correct my mistake, thank you
You are not an idiot dear anon. I don’t have the video on my YouTube channel, another channel has it here though. Skip to ~2:58 for the clip I used in that gif :)
Hey :) No worries at all, it’s Kalia from the opening video of One Ocean (most of that video is Kasatka but this bit is Kalia).