Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 197–204

Killer whale predation on marine mammals at Punta Norte, Argentina; food sharing, provisioning and foraging strategy

  • A. Rus Hoelzel


The social dynamics of killer whales (Orcinus orca) that hunt marine mammals are apparently highly flexible, though strong individual associations do exist. The killer whales at Punta Norte offer an unusually detailed view of association patterns and foraging behaviour, and suggest a pattern of behaviour that optimizes hunting efficiency with exception only to strong associations between some individuals and the provisioning and training of offspring. The main points from this paper are as follows: First, hunting effort was concentrated where the capture rate was greatest. All pods selectively attacked the prey type for which they had the highest capture rate. The amount of southern sea lion prey captured was approximately equal to the estimated minimum energetic requirement for killer whales based on weight. Secondly, one whale in each pod did the majority of the hunting, and then provisioned the others in the pod. It was clear on numerous occasions that food was shared. A review of reported incidences of killer wales taking marine mammal prey suggests that it is common for a subset of the individuals in a pod to hunt. These results are discussed in the context of the evolution of foraging behaviour.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Rus Hoelzel
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeneticsCambridge UniversityCambridgeEngland
  2. 2.Centre for Population BiologyImperial CollegeAscot, Berks

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