Raising a kid is hard, especially if you are a southern resident Orca boy-mom.
A recent study showed raising a male-whale is so energy intensive that orca moms are less likely to have another baby after having a son. Having a daughter, however, did not reduce the chance of having another baby. This is not surprising because girl orcas grow up to be independent whereas boys are cared for by their mothers well into adulthood.
Orca moms literally give their adult sons the food out of their mouth. They catch salmon, bite it in half and leave the other half for their son. In fact, orca moms are so important to the survival of their sons that if they die, it is likely their son will also die within a year or two. However, as salmon populations are dwindling, this maternal strategy may mean that orca moms are feeding their sons at the cost of their own survival.
This research hits a little close to home as I am a mom to two boys and had to stop writing this at least 17 times to help get one of them something to eat and drink. I would guess that most human moms put energy into their kids because we love them and want them to be successful (and move out eventually).
For orca moms, the self-sacrifice is to raise a strong adult male that will hopefully provide her lots of grandkids to carry on her lineage.
Who knows, maybe the orca sons will give their mom back the other half of the salmon this Sunday?
Happy Mother’s Day.