Polar Biology

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 303–306 | Cite as

Observations of a distinctive morphotype of killer whale (Orcinus orca), type D, from subantarctic waters

  • Robert L. Pitman
  • John W. Durban
  • Michael Greenfelder
  • Christophe Guinet
  • Morton Jorgensen
  • Paula A. Olson
  • Jordi Plana
  • Paul Tixier
  • Jared R. Towers
Short Note

Abstract

Studies have shown that killer whale (Orcinus orca) communities in high latitudes regularly comprise assemblages of sympatric ‘ecotypes’—forms that differ in morphology, behavior, and prey preferences. Although they can appear superficially similar, recent genetic evidence suggests that breeding is assortative among ecotypes within individual communities, and species-level divergences are inferred in some cases. Here, we provide information on a recently recognized ‘type D’ killer whale based on photographs of a 1955 mass stranding in New Zealand and our own six at-sea sightings since 2004. It is the most distinctive-looking form of killer whale that we know of, immediately recognizable by its extremely small white eye patch. Its geographic range appears to be circumglobal in subantarctic waters between latitudes 40°S and 60°S. School sizes are relatively large (mean 17.6; range 9–35; n = 7), and although nothing is known about the type D diet, it is suspected to include fish because groups have been photographed around longline vessels where they reportedly depredate Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides).

Keywords

Killer whale Orcinus orca Subantarctic Type D 

References

  1. Baird RW, McSweeney DJ, Bane C, Barlow J, Salden DR, Antoine LK, LeDuc RG, Webster DL (2006) Killer whales in Hawaiian waters: information on population identity and feeding habits. Pac Sci 60:523–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker AN (1983) Whales and dolphins of New Zealand and Australia. Victoria University Press, WellingtonGoogle Scholar
  3. Foote AD, Newton J, Piertney SB, Willerslev E, Thomas M, Gilbert P (2009) Ecological, morphological and genetic divergence of sympatric North Atlantic killer whale populations. Molec Ecol 18:5207–5217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ford JKB, Ellis GM, Balcomb KC (2000) Killer whales: the natural history and genealogy of Orcinus orca in the waters of British Columbia and Washington. University of British Columbia Press and University of Washington Press, Vancouver and SeattleGoogle Scholar
  5. Guinet C (1992) Comportement de chasse des orques (Orcinus orca) autour des îles Crozet. Can J Zool 70:1656–1667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Guinet C, Barrett-Lennard LG, Loyer B (2000) Co-ordinated attack behavior and prey sharing by killer whales at Crozet Archipelago: strategies for feeding on negatively-buoyant prey. Mar Mamm Sci 16:829–834CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Jefferson TA, Webber MA, Pitman RL (2007) Marine mammals of the world. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  8. LeDuc RG, Robertson KM, Pitman RL (2008) Mitochondrial sequence divergence among Antarctic killer whale ecotypes is consistent with multiple species. Biol Lett 4:426–429CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Morin PA, Archer FI, Foote AD, Thomas M, Gilbert P, Allen EE, Wade P, Durban J, Parsons K, Pitman R, Li L, Bouffard P, Vilstrup J, Nielsen SA, Willerslev E, Harkins T (2010) Complete mitochondrial genome analysis of killer whales (Orcinus orca) indicates multiple species. Genome Res 20:908–916CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Pitman RL, Ensor P (2003) Three different forms of killer whales in Antarctic waters. J Cetacean Res Manag 5:131–139Google Scholar
  11. Pitman RL, Fearnbach H, LeDuc R, Gilpatrick JW, Ford JKB, Ballance LT (2007) Killer whales preying on a blue whale calf on the Costa Rica Dome: genetics, morphometrics, vocalizations and composition of the group. J Cetacean Res Manag 9:151–158Google Scholar
  12. Roche C, Gasco N, Duhamel G, Guinet C (2007) Marine mammals and demersal long line fishery interactions in Crozet and Kerguelen exclusive economic zones: an assessment of the depredation level. CCAMLR Sci Ser 14:67–82Google Scholar
  13. Tixier P, Gasco N, Duhamel G, Guinet C (2010) Interactions of Patagonian toothfish fisheries with killer and sperm whales: an assessment of depredation levels and insights on possible mitigation solutions. CCAMLR Sci Ser (in press)Google Scholar
  14. Visser IN (1999) Antarctic orca in New Zealand waters? NZ J Mar Freshw Res 33:515–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Visser IN, Mäkeläinen P (2000) Variation in eye-patch shape in killer whales (Orcinus orca) in New Zealand waters. Mar Mamm Sci 16:459–469CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© US Government 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert L. Pitman
    • 1
  • John W. Durban
    • 1
  • Michael Greenfelder
    • 2
  • Christophe Guinet
    • 3
  • Morton Jorgensen
    • 4
  • Paula A. Olson
    • 1
  • Jordi Plana
    • 5
  • Paul Tixier
    • 3
  • Jared R. Towers
    • 6
  1. 1.Protected Resources Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries ServiceNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.NavarreUSA
  3. 3.CEBC-CNRSBeauvoir-sur-NiortFrance
  4. 4.København VDenmark
  5. 5.Quaternary Research Center (CEQUA)Punta ArenasChile
  6. 6.Marine Education and Research SocietyAlert BayCanada

Personalised recommendations