The Southern Resident killer whale community is formed of three pods known as J, K and L. The Center for Whale Research has documented these families since 1976, and gives each newborn witnessed alive a unique ID. The letter – J, K or L donates the pod of the mother’s family, and the calf (male or female) will stay with her family for life. The number is the next available for that pod. For example, the last calf born to J pod in 2020 was named J58, the next calf born to a J pod mother will be J59.

While researchers love numbers, regular people love names. It’s so hard to fall in love with a number! So each year, the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor asks members to vote for a name for new calves of the year. Usually, the calf name will have some association with the mother. For example, the son of Eclipse, was named Nova, to keep the celestial theme.

J26 a.k.a. Mike is named in honor of Mike Bigg, who was the first to recognize that killer whales have unique saddle patches—like our fingerprint—that make it possible to identify every animal over its lifetime. He is sometimes known as the father of killer whale research.

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