Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Meet Granny: At 105, she’s the world’s oldest killer whale

AUGUST 9, 2016

by Chuck Bednar

A killer whale estimated to be 105 years old, meaning that it was born a year before the Titanic sank, is apparently alive and well after being spotted off the coast of Washington.

Officially known as J2 but affectionately nicknamed “Granny,” the whale was seen swimming with other orcas in the Salish Sea and near San Juan Island’s False Bay near Washington state on July 27, the Daily Mail and Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier this month.

Granny, which was first spotted in 1971 when she was an estimated 60 years old, is believed to be the matriarch of a group of whales in the northern Pacific Ocean. Though experts believe she is 105, there is a 12 year margin of error about her age, meaning she could be only 93 years old – which still far exceeds the typical orca lifespan of between 60 and 80 years.

Experts from Ocean EcoVentures explained to the Daily Mail that they were able to identify J2 thanks to special markings on her dorsal fin and a notch shaped like a half-moon, and in a recent blog post, they said that she and her group, the Southern Resident Killer Whales, had spent a few weeks foraging and travelling through the Strait of Georgia near British Columbia.

How experts determined Granny’s age (and why she’s not all that unusual)
According to the author of that blog post, Simon Pidcock, Granny “has been swimming pretty much non-stop for over 100 years. The Southern Residents on average travel about 72 miles in a 24-hour period day in, day out. This means in Granny’s lifetime she has swam around the world the equivalent of a 100 times.”

The earliest pictures of J2 were from 1967, according to Pidcock, and whale researchers believe that she has been alive since 1911. In 1976, she was spotted travelling with a mature bull known as “Ruffles” due to the trailing edge of his dorsal fin. Ruffles was thought to be the only survivor among Granny’s offspring, as these whales typically remain with their mothers for life.

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