Scientists mourn the loss of the oldest orca

Granny the orca
The orca known as J2, or Granny, hasn’t been seen for months. (Center for Whale Research / 1998)

No body has been sighted, but after months of missing her, researchers have declared that the oldest orca in Puget Sound’s J pod is presumed dead.

The loss of J2, better-known as Granny, marks a turning point for the small community of southern resident killer whales in Puget Sound and its environs. Orca communities are centered around older females, which made Granny the leader of J pod.

It’s not known precisely how old Granny was, but Ken Balcomb, executive director and principal investigator at the Center for Whale Research, said estimates put her likely age at 76 back in 1987.  That would make her 105 years old now.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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