Polar Biology

, Volume 31, Issue 12, pp 1461–1468

Satellite tracking reveals distinct movement patterns for Type B and Type C killer whales in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica


    • University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and the Alaska SeaLife Center
  • Robert L. Pitman
    • NOAA Fisheries, Southwest Fisheries Science Center
  • Lisa T. Ballance
    • NOAA Fisheries, Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00300-008-0487-z

Cite this article as:
Andrews, R.D., Pitman, R.L. & Ballance, L.T. Polar Biol (2008) 31: 1461. doi:10.1007/s00300-008-0487-z


During January/February 2006, we satellite-tracked two different ecotypes of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in McMurdo Sound, Ross Sea, Antarctica, using surface-mounted tags attached with sub-dermal darts. A single Type B whale (pinniped prey specialist), tracked for 27 days, traveled an average net distance of 56.8 ± 32.8 km day−1, a maximum of 114 km day−1, and covered an estimated area of 49,351 km2. It spent several days near two large emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) colonies, a potential prey item for this form. By contrast, four Type C killer whales (fish prey specialists) tracked for 7–65 days, traveled an average net distance of 20 ± 8.3 km day−1, a maximum of 56 net km day−1, and covered an estimated area of only 5,223 km2. These movement patterns are consistent with those of killer whale ecotypes in the eastern North Pacific where mammal-eating ‘transients’ travel widely and are less predictable in their movements, and fish-eating ‘residents’ have a more localized distribution and more predictable occurrence, at least during the summer months.


Antarctica Killer whale Ecotype Ross Sea Satellite tracking

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008