acta ethologica

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 47–53 | Cite as

The relationship between the acoustic behaviour and surface activity of killer whales (Orcinus orca) that feed on herring (Clupea harengus)

  • Malene Simon
  • Peter K. McGregor
  • Fernando Ugarte
Original Paper


We describe the acoustic behaviour of piscivorous killer whales in Norwegian and Icelandic waters. Whales were assigned to one of three activities (feeding, travelling or other), and sound recordings were made in their proximity with a single hydrophone and a digital audiotape (DAT) recorder. A quantitative analysis of the production of pulsed calls, whistles and echolocation clicks in the three activities revealed that there was a significant effect of activity on the production of these sound types. Both killer whales in Icelandic and Norwegian waters produced high rates of clicks and calls during feeding and low rates of click, calls and whistles during travelling. The differences can be used as acoustical markers and provides new possibilities for acoustic monitoring of killer whales in these areas. Based on the similarity between their prey choice, hunting strategies, phenotype and acoustic behaviour, we suggest that the killer whales in Icelandic and Norwegian waters belong to the same ecotype: Scandinavian herring-eating killer whales.


Acoustic behaviour Killer whale Orcinus orca Scandinavian waters 



We thank Hvalsafari A/S, T. Similä and G. MacCallum for funding the fieldwork in Norway. Thanks to T. Leyssen, M. Christoffersen, N. Eriksen, M. Rasmussen, L. Briones and A. Lalich for their help in the field. We thank the Marine Research Institute of Iceland for the hospitality. Ocean Futures/Free Willy Keiko Foundation funded the fieldwork in Iceland. This study is based on a BSc report made at the Department of Animal Behaviour, Zoological Institute, University of Copenhagen. This study complies with the current laws of Iceland and Norway. M. Simon was funded by the Oticon Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag and ISPA 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Malene Simon
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peter K. McGregor
    • 3
  • Fernando Ugarte
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Biological SciencesUniversity of AarhusAarhus CDenmark
  2. 2.Greenland Institute of Natural ResourcesNuukGreenland
  3. 3.Duchy CollegeCallingtonUK
  4. 4.Ministry of Fisheries, Hunting and AgricultureNuukGreenland

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