Family feast: Kin-directed prey sharing behaviour in northern resident killer whales

Event Date

4304 SW Dakota St
United States

Presentation by Brianna Wright

Resident killer whales prey almost exclusively on salmon and depend particularly on Chinook (the least common species of salmon in the Pacific Northwest), which makes up the majority of their known diet. Despite the importance of Chinook to the survival of individual killer whales, they frequently choose to share this critical resource with family members. Brianna Wright, Eva Stredulinsky, Graeme Ellis and Dr. John Ford conducted a 12-year study (2002-2014) examining patterns of prey sharing behaviour among northern resident killer whales. In particular, the talk will discuss the prevalence of prey sharing between close maternal relatives, and the role that this cooperative behaviour may have played in the evolution of this population’s unusually stable social structure.

A scientific article presenting the results from this study, entitled “Kin-directed food sharing promotes lifetime natal philopatry of both sexes in a population of fish-eating killer whales, Orcinus orca”, is available free of charge from the journal Animal Behaviour at the following link:

About the Speaker

Brianna Wright holds a BSc. in Biology and Anthropology from the University of Victoria and a MSc. in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. She began her career in whale research as an undergraduate co-op student with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s marine mammal research group in 2007, transitioning to full-time work as a research technician for the same team in 2008. Her graduate thesis used Dtags (a suction-cup attached device that records dive depth, body position and underwater sound) to investigate the fine-scale foraging behaviour of resident killer whales. In 2014, Brianna graduated from UBC and returned to the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, where she currently works as a marine mammal biologist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. In 2016, she published a paper with Eva Stredulinsky, Graeme Ellis and John Ford about prey sharing behaviour by resident killer whales and its influence on the evolution of their unique social structure. This paper was awarded Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Paper of the Year award in 2016. Her recent research includes projects on resident killer whale population monitoring, feeding behaviour and echolocation, as well as habitat modelling for large baleen whales to help reduce the impact of vessel strikes on these vulnerable populations.


When: November 8th, 2018 7:00-8:30 Doors open at 6:15

Where: Dakota Place Park 4304 SW Dakota St, Seattle, WA 98116

Cost: $10 General Admission; Kids under 12 are Free

Advance tickets:

Event Page:

Presented by The Whale Trail


About The Whale Trail

The Whale Trail ( is a series of sites where the public may view orcas and other marine mammals from shore. Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment. Our overarching goal is to ensure the southern resident orcas recover from the threat of extinction.

Through our current sites and signs, including two on every Washington State ferry, we reach more than 50 million people each year. The Whale Trail is currently adding new sites along the west coast, from California to British Columbia, throughout the southern resident orcas' range and beyond.

The Whale Trail is led by a core team of partners that include NOAA Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Seattle Aquarium, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and the Whale Museum. Our BC team is led by the BC Cetacean Sighting Network. Many members of The Whale Trail teams met when they worked together to return Springer, the orphaned orca, to her pod. 

The Whale Trail is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, headquartered in West Seattle. Join us!

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PHOTOS: Breaching killer whale & NRKW group photos by Brianna Wright.

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