First record of Norwegian killer whales attacking and feeding on a harbour porpoise

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Abstract

Orcinus orca is a cosmopolitan species and the most widely distributed marine mammal. Its diet includes over 140 species of fish, cephalopods, sea birds and marine mammals. However, many populations are specialised on certain specific prey items. Three genetically distinct populations have been described in the North Atlantic. Population A (that includes the Icelandic and Norwegian sub-populations) is believed to be piscivorous, as is population C, which includes fish-eating killer whales from the Strait of Gibraltar. In contrast, population B feeds on both fish and marine mammals. Norwegian killer whales follow the Norwegian spring spawning herring stock. The only description in the literature of Norwegian killer whales feeding on another cetacean species is a predation event on northern bottlenose whales in 1968. Daily land-based surveys targeting sperm whales were conducted from the Andenes lighthouse using BigEyesw binoculars (25×, 80 mm). The location of animals at sea was approximated through the use of an internal reticule system and a graduated wheel. On 24 June 2012 at 3:12 am, an opportunistic sighting of 11 killer whales was made off Andenes harbour. The whales hunted and fed on a harbour porpoise. Despite these species having overlapping distributions in Norwegian waters, this is the first predatory event reported in the literature.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere108
Number of pages5
JournalMarine Biodiversity Records
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2015

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Keywords

  • killer whale
  • diet
  • behaviour
  • harbour porpoise

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