It’s a girl!
Though the identity of its mother is still unclear, researchers have confirmed that the newborn orca spotted in the Salish Sea on Dec. 30 is female, the Center for Whale Research announced Wednesday. The southern resident killer whale is the newest member of the J-pod and its celebrated birth brought the total number of southern resident killer whales to 78.
According to the center, gender is determined by the different pigment pattern on the underside of the whales. When one breaches or rolls over, the belly is often exposed, and new mothers will often roll their calves on the surface. This move allows researchers to figure out the gender. Males have an elongated white pattern on their undersides, while females’ white patterns are more rounded.
The center is working in coordination with researchers from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans to determine the identity of the baby’s mother. Scientists originally believed J16, a 42-year-old known as Slick, was her mother, but further research suggested that she might actually be the grandmother and is “babysitting” J50 while her daughter, J36, rests after a difficulty delivery.