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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Artificially inseminated killer whale gives birth
Killer whale calf, AP
The calf (rear) was born on Saturday
A 25-year-old orca (killer whale) has given birth to what is believed to be the first live calf conceived by artificial insemination.

Orca calf
Born San Diego, California, 1 September, 2001
300-350 lb (136-159 kg)
Six to seven feet (1.8 to 2.1 m) long
The orca, named Kasatka, produced her offspring at the SeaWorld park in San Diego, California, US, after four hours of labour and a 17-month pregnancy. The sex of the calf is not yet known.

The father of the calf is from another SeaWorld park in Orlando, Florida, and had to be trained to allow his sperm to be collected.

Exact measurements of the calf are not available, but they normally weigh between 300 and 350 pounds (136 and 159 kg) and measure between six and seven feet (1.8 and 2.1 metres) in length.

The birth follows 12 years of research by Todd Robeck at SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas.

Orca reproduction

Killer whales, Orcinus orca, usually begin calving at between 14 and 15 years old and stop at around 40, giving birth every three years at most.

They nurse their young for at least six months, sometimes a year or longer. Adult males can reach a weight of 10 tonnes.

The whales normally give birth to a single calf, though there have been cases of twins.

SeaWorld says that the successful breeding of a whale by artificial insemination will enable it to improve the genetic diversity of whales bred in captivity.

In the wild, killer whales live off fish, squid, seals, sea lions, penguins, dolphins, porpoises and large whales like the blue whale.

They have no natural predators and can live to between 50 and 80 years of age.

See also:

16 Jun 01 | Europe
Killer whales swim into city
17 Oct 98 | Sci/Tech
Hungry whales prey on otters
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