Sub-Antarctic "type D" killer whales are a very distinctive and rarely encountered ecotype of orcas found in the offshore waters of the Southern Ocean. Jared Towers, director of Bay Cetology, joins us in this episode to discuss his fascinating encounter with a group of "type D" killer whales and a recently published paper, “Type D” killer whale genomes reveal long-term small population size and low genetic diversity.
Before jumping into the discussion about his adventures to find "type D" killer whales, Jared and Jeff tell a story about a humpback whale mom and fresh newborn calf, maybe only hours old, they encountered offshore of Baja this winter on their charter with Apparent Winds. Jeff forgot to tell this story in episode 11, and since Jeff and Jared were there for the encounter this winter, they wanted to share this unique experience.
We then talk to Jared about his background, growing up in Alert Bay, BC, where he lives currently working with Bay Cetology as well as other organizations. After talking a bit about Bay Cetology and some of Jared's other encounters, he tells us about the challenges in finding "type D" killer whales and the conditions he had to endure in a 75 foot sail boat in the Southern Ocean.
Their persistence paid off and Jared recounts the story of how they came across a group of approximately 30 very curious "type D's" as the whales checked out the boat and the line of hydrophones and GoPros being towed behind. They were able to get the first fresh tissue biopsy samples so they could see how they compare to all other Southern Hemisphere killer whales.
Jared talks about the 3 individuals biopsied, a mother and 2 probable full siblings. We talk with Jared about the paper, the ecotype's low genetic diversity and the bottleneck they experienced in the past. Jared points out and discusses that in spite of their challenges, they have found a way to become wide spread and perhaps abundant compared to other inbred populations.
We conclude the episode discussing recent sightings in the Salish Sea. Sara and Jeff are running tours daily with Maya's Legacy Whale Watching and highlight some recent encounters with large groups of Bigg's killer whales, including the iconic T63, Chainsaw.