STUDY: The Big Problem For Endangered Orcas Is Inbreeding

SEATTLE (AP) — New research suggests that inbreeding may be a key reason that the Pacific Northwest’s endangered population of killer whales has failed to recover despite decades of conservation efforts.

The so-called “southern resident” population of orcas stands at 73 whales.

That’s just two more than in 1971, after scores of the whales were captured for display in marine theme parks around the world.

For research published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, researchers sequenced the genomes of 100 living and dead killer whales in the southern resident population.

Those whales had lower levels of genetic diversity and higher levels of inbreeding than other populations of killer whales in the North Pacific.

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