#MarineWildlife - "High pollution levels" could be to blame for the failure of Ireland's only resident killer whale pod to produce any calves.
As reported two years ago on Afloat.ie, the well-known orca pod often seen between Scotland and Ireland has been judged to be on the 'brink of extinction', with its conservation status described as "critical".
Since then the pod's number has dwindled from nine adults to just seven, with no juveniles recorded in the 30 years the so-called Scottish West Coast Community has been monitored by researchers.
One reason for that, posits Dr Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), could be "high pollution levels" in the food chain which may have rendered them infertile.
“If you’re moving all around Europe and living a long time, you get a lot of contaminants from fish over time,” he told the Irish Mirror.
That's a theory backed up by evidence of pollutants detected in whale carcasses beached around Ireland in recent years.
Far from the ferocious beasts of horror tales, Ireland's killer whales are considered among the gentle giants in the marine wildlife world - with one recently the recipient of a shark bite on his tail fluke.
Marine scientists have long been interested in the group for their genetic distinctness from other orcas in the north Atlantic, bearing closer relation to their Antarctic cousins.