Killer Whales
9:15 am
Thu July 21, 2011

Inbreeding is new concern for Puget Sound orcas

Scientists have a new concern about the killer whales that spend their summer in the Puget Sound. The orcas have been breeding within their own family groups, which may mean the population is more fragile than scientists thought.

The Seattle Times reports the endangered killer whales in J, K and L pods avoid mating with siblings or offspring. But a significant number of young whales in recent years have been born to parents that are members of the same pod. That's according to a new study by several of the Northwest's top orca scientists.

Researchers say the trend could significantly reduce the population's genetic diversity and make the whales more susceptible to disease and genetic disorders or mutations.