, Volume 33, Issue 11, pp 1589-1594

Killer whale predation on penguins in Antarctica

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Abstract

We report here the first published observations of killer whales (Orcinus orca) feeding on penguins in Antarctica. The sightings took place in the Gerlache Strait off the western Antarctic Peninsula during February 2010. Two species of pygoscelid penguins were taken—gentoo (Pygoscelis papua, at least four individuals) and chinstrap (P. antarctica, 2). From remains left at the surface, it was clear that the killer whales fed mainly on the breast muscles, although some penguins may have been swallowed whole. The killer whales were ecotype B, which are purported seal specialists, but we also saw ecotype A, prey specialists on Antarctic minke whales Balaenoptera bonaerensis, chase, but not catch penguins. Because of their small relative size, if penguins are regularly targeted by killer whales in Antarctica, the impact on their populations could be significant.