Journal of Ethology

, 27:333 | Cite as

The function of multi-pod aggregations of fish-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca) in Kamchatka, Far East Russia

  • Olga A. FilatovaEmail author
  • Ivan D. Fedutin
  • Tatyana V. Ivkovich
  • Mikhail M. Nagaylik
  • Alexandr M. Burdin
  • Erich Hoyt


In fish-eating North Pacific killer whales, large multi-pod aggregations of up to 100 animals often occur. These aggregations are thought to be reproductive gatherings where mating between members of different pods takes place. However, killer whales are social animals, and the role of these aggregations might also be establishing and maintaining social bonds between pods. Alternatively, it is also possible that multi-pod aggregations are in some way connected with foraging or searching for fish. In this study of killer whales in the western North Pacific, we describe multi-pod aggregations quantitatively and suggest their functional role in the life of fish-eating killer whales. We show that foraging is rare in multi-pod aggregations, whether inter-clan or intra-clan, and thus they are unlikely to play an important role in cooperative foraging. Socialising occurs more frequently in inter-clan rather than in intra-clan aggregations, which suggests the higher arousal level and possible mating during inter-clan aggregations. In summary, multi-pod aggregations of Kamchatka killer whales might be both reproductive assemblages and “clubs” of some kind in which whales gather to establish and maintain social bonds.


Killer whales Orcinus orca Social behaviour Aggregations Mating Kamchatka 



This research was supported by WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, the Humane Society of the United States, the Sacher Trusts, the Klüh Prize, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation. We are grateful to many people who have helped us in this study: Ilya Shevchenko, Evgenia Lazareva, Alexandr Volkov, Karina Tarasyan, Mikhail Kislin, Vladimir Konoplev, Egor Aksenov and Julia Zakharova.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olga A. Filatova
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ivan D. Fedutin
    • 2
  • Tatyana V. Ivkovich
    • 3
  • Mikhail M. Nagaylik
    • 1
  • Alexandr M. Burdin
    • 4
    • 5
  • Erich Hoyt
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Faculty of BiologyMoscow State UniversityMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Central Forest State Nature ReserveTverRussia
  3. 3.Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Faculty of BiologySt Petersburg State UniversitySt PetersburgRussia
  4. 4.Alaska SeaLife CenterSewardUSA
  5. 5.Kamchatka Branch of the Pacific Institute of Geography RASPetropavlovsk-KamchatskiyRussia
  6. 6.Whale and Dolphin Conservation SocietyNorth BerwickScotland, UK

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