Satellite tracking reveals distinct movement patterns for Type B and Type C killer whales in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica
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- Andrews, R.D., Pitman, R.L. & Ballance, L.T. Polar Biol (2008) 31: 1461. doi:10.1007/s00300-008-0487-z
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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.