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Keywords:

  • Orcinus orca;
  • reproduction;
  • serum progesterone

Abstract

Sea World has maintained killer whales (Orcinus orca) since 1965. The total killer whale inventory (1965–1993) has included 39 whales (25 females, 14 males); 28 were wild-caught and 11 captive-born, including one second-generation calf. As of September, 1993, there were 19 whales in the breeding program. Ten of these whales (53%) were captive-born, either at Sea World or other facilities in North America. The live wild-caught whales ranged in estimated age from 12–27 years (x̄ ± sd = 17.6 ± 4.2 years). The captive-born whales ranged in age from <1 to 8 years. In the Sea World breeding program (through September, 1993), there have been nine live births and one stillbirth, with eight calves part of the current inventory. Births occurred from July to February. Calving intervals ranged from 32–58 months. Female age at birth of first calves ranged from 8 years to an estimated 17 years (x̄ ± sd = 12.7 ± 3.0 years). Gestation, based on conception estimates from serum progesterone analysis, averaged 17 months (x̄ ± sd = 517 ± 20 days), but successful pregnancies with viable calves occurred from 15–18 months (468–539 days). Females, in the presence and absence of males, were polyestrus with periods of cycling interspersed with individually variable noncycling (presumed anestrous) periods ranging from 3–16 months. Mean serum progesterone levels (±se) were as follows: noncycling periods = 121 ± 20 pg/ml; peak elevations during nonconceptive ovulatory (estrous) cycles = 3,962 ± 2,280 pg/ml; first pregnancies = 14,592 ± 3,854 pg/ml; second pregnancies = 8,389 ± 395 pg/ml; and third pregnancy = 8,180 ± 4,556. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.