Inferred Paternity and Male Reproductive Success in a Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) Population

We used data from 78 individuals at 26 microsatellite loci to infer parental and sibling relationships within a community of fish-eating (‘‘resident’’) eastern North Pacific killer whales (Orcinus orca). Paternity analysis involving 15 mother/calf pairs and 8 potential fathers and whole-pedigree analysis of the entire sample produced consistent results. The variance in male reproductive success was greater than expected by chance and similar to that of other aquatic mammals. Although the number of confirmed paternities was small, reproductive success appeared to increase with male age and size. We found no evidence that males from outside this small population sired any of the sampled individuals. In contrast to previous results in a different population, many offspring were the result of matings within the same ‘‘pod’’ (long-term social group). Despite this pattern of breeding within social groups, we found no evidence of offspring produced by matings between close relatives, and the average internal relatedness of individuals was significantly less than expected if mating were random. The population’s estimated effective size was ,30 or about 1/3 of the current census size. Patterns of allele frequency variation were consistent with a population bottleneck.


Ford, M.J., M.B. Hanson, J.A. Hempelmann, K.L. Ayres, C.K. Emmons, G.S. Schorr, R.W. Baird, K.C. Balcomb, S.K. Wasser, K.M. Parsons, and K. Balcomb-Bartok. 2011. Inferred Paternity and Male Reproductive Success in a Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) Population. Journal of Heredity 102(5): 537-553. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esr067 

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