Original Paper

acta ethologica

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 47-53

First online:

The relationship between the acoustic behaviour and surface activity of killer whales (Orcinus orca) that feed on herring (Clupea harengus)

  • Malene SimonAffiliated withInstitute of Biological Sciences, University of AarhusGreenland Institute of Natural Resources Email author 
  • , Peter K. McGregorAffiliated withDuchy College
  • , Fernando UgarteAffiliated withMinistry of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture

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We describe the acoustic behaviour of piscivorous killer whales in Norwegian and Icelandic waters. Whales were assigned to one of three activities (feeding, travelling or other), and sound recordings were made in their proximity with a single hydrophone and a digital audiotape (DAT) recorder. A quantitative analysis of the production of pulsed calls, whistles and echolocation clicks in the three activities revealed that there was a significant effect of activity on the production of these sound types. Both killer whales in Icelandic and Norwegian waters produced high rates of clicks and calls during feeding and low rates of click, calls and whistles during travelling. The differences can be used as acoustical markers and provides new possibilities for acoustic monitoring of killer whales in these areas. Based on the similarity between their prey choice, hunting strategies, phenotype and acoustic behaviour, we suggest that the killer whales in Icelandic and Norwegian waters belong to the same ecotype: Scandinavian herring-eating killer whales.


Acoustic behaviour Killer whale Orcinus orca Scandinavian waters