About the Killer Whale Project

Killer Whale Research Project


We are part of a team of researchers studying the evolution of life history and social behaviour in killer whales Orcus orcina.

Thanks to the cooperation of Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research and Prof John Ford of the Pacific Biological Station, we have access to data from two populations of resident killer whales off the north west coast of the USA. Balcomb, Ford and their research teams have studied killer whales continuously since the 1970s. Their research efforts have advanced fundamental understanding of the lives of cetaceans, and set the stage for our new collaborative studies of life history and development.

Life History


Killer whales have a life history that is remarkably similar to humans. For example, killer whales are one of only three mammals known to undergo menopause in the wild (the other two being humans and short-finned pilot whales). Our research is revealing the selective forces that have shaped this unusual life history, and casting new light on our own evolutionary history.

Press Coverage


Mike’s work with Professor Darren Croft on reproductive conflict and the evolution of menopause in Killer Whales received extensive press coverage at the start of 2017. Here is a BBC video that featured on national news. Check out the related study article here Croft et al 2017