A systematic program of research into the reproductive physiology of killer whales by a team of scientists from SeaWorld, the National Zoological Park, and the Zoological Society of San Diego has culminated in the first live births of any cetacean--the group of marine mammals that includes whales and dolphins--by means of artificial insemination.
Mother killer whale and her male calf.
In a report set for publication in the journal Biology of Reproduction, the team, headed by Dr. Todd R. Robeck, based at SeaWorld San Antonio, notes that their research will allow sperm of killer whales in zoological facilities to be stored by a technique known as "genome resource banking" or GRB. GRB, used in conjunction with artificial insemination, could play an important role in ensuring the genetic vitality of captive marine mammals.
Robecks team studied one male and five female killer whales to evaluate the reproductive physiology of these animals. The females were between 13 and 20 years old and weighed about 5,000 pounds. The male was 20 years old and weighed more than 11,000 pounds. All were trained to cooperate in a variety of procedures involved in the research.
Dr. Todd R. Robeck | EurekAlert!
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